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Commitment to Work, Clients, and Community Drives Mary Rust ‘87

As a finance major at Miami University, Mary Rust took the LSAT, knowing she might pursue a law degree at some point. After graduating from Miami in 1984, knowing her test scores would remain good for five years, Rust took a job with a bank in Detroit.

In about a month’s time, however, Rust realized she did not want to be a loan officer. So she placed a call to the College of Law, hoping there might be an opening in the Class of 1987.

“Totally fortuitously, they had someone in the incoming class decide he wasn't coming, so they had a spot,” Rust said. “I immediately got the application, filled it out, ‘Federal Express-ed’ it there, and was accepted. I gave two weeks’ notice at the bank, moved back home to Cincinnati and started law school. It worked out great.”

Twenty-five years into her law career, the current partner at Cincinnati’s Taft Stettinius &Hollister office said she has no regrets. Rust liked her class and said she is still friends with some of her classmates.

Today, she works primarily in estate planning, charitable giving, and trust and estate administration. She has been mentioned in The Best Lawyers in America and has been designated as a Cincinnati FIVE STAR Wealth Manager three times.

Rust’s legal career started at what is now known as Aronoff Rosen & Hunt, a firm at which she clerked during school. Rust said she loved her time there, staying with the firm until 1990. She then had an opportunity to go in-house with Fifth Third Bank as assistant trust counsel. “I decided I loved that too, but I really missed having clients where I was doing the drafting, as opposed to reviewing other people’s drafting,” she said of her 1990 to 1996 tenure with Fifth Third. “I also missed the relationships with the families.”

After hearing of an opening at Taft, Rust contacted an attorney she knew in estate planning. Taft was interested, but the “kink in that operation” was Rust had gone part-time at Fifth Third and she hoped to stay on that schedule. Eventually, the firm agreed to her request, and she has been working there part-time for 16 years.

Rust is in the office four days a week, but – especially during tax season – it is not uncommon that she is there every week day. This is in addition to the many hours she works from her home.

“I love what I’m doing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Rust said. “It’s very people intensive. I get out of the office a lot. I get to know people’s families, and their kids, and their grandkids, and I find out when someone is getting married or when they’re having a baby. It’s fun.”

Of course, because of the nature of estate planning, there are many times where it is not fun, but instead very sad. Rust noted how she becomes attached to her clients and, obviously the worst part of her work is when the long-time clients pass away or give her other bad news.

“The flip side of it is you feel like you’re providing a really valuable service when you help someone navigate that,” she said.

Family and Community Play an Important Role in her Life

While she is very passionate about her work and honored about the accolades she has received, Rust said she is most proud of her family – which consists of husband Bill, Charlie (21), Katie (19) and Nick (17).

The Cincinnati native said her family is big into sports and she has always tried to make it to her children’s sporting events (and she has coached, too), which now includes trips to Pittsburgh where Katie is a soccer player at Duquesne University.

Rust’s schedule has given her the flexibility to be heavily involved with her family, but she has also made time for others.

Among other community involvement, Rust is on the board and chairs the development committee of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI). She has been involved there in some capacity since 1988, even though no one in her family has vision impairment. Instead, this can be traced back her to days at Miami when her sorority supported a similar cause.

“I just thought how hard it must be to be blind in the world that we live in and with so many things you miss – with beautiful visions and colors and things like that,” Rust said. “We actually bought a seeing eye dog for someone who was a student at Miami and to see how he could navigate was amazing to me.”

Sometime after law school, for one hour every Thursday, Rust began reading the Cincinnati Enquirer aloud to people through a reading service. She eventually took over a committee position at CABVI and has stayed involved ever since.

While in the law school, Rust was involved with and eventually led the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. She was also a member of Moot Court, which included trips to Chapel Hill, N.C. and Buffalo for what happened to be two tax-related competitions. She also fondly recalled being one of the many “cubs” in former professor Alphonse Squillante’s classes.

“I liked law school,” she said. “You hear people say they don’t like it. I thought it was great.”

Rust remains connected with the College of Law as a trustee and legal counsel for the Keeler Foundation, which endows a College of Law scholarship.

Outside of her work and involvements, Rust enjoys running and taking in the scenes of her beloved hometown. The Anderson township resident, who once ran the Flying Pig Marathon, also enjoys exploring the many unique eateries in town, which includes Terry’s Turf Club (East End/Mount Washington, Pelican’s Reef (Anderson), Sammy’s Gourmet Burgers and Beers (Blue Ash), and El Jinete (Fairfax).

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13