Hugh A. Carlin ’70 grew up in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood. His dad, Hugh Sr. ’39, a pipefitter, and his mother, Tina, were both devout Catholics. Soon after Hugh made his First Communion at St. Vincent de Paul parish, his life took a dramatic turn when his dad died suddenly. With his mother working three jobs and with financial support from his aunt and uncle, Hugh was able to fulfill his dad’s wishes and attend Saint Ignatius High School.
Hugh recalls being constantly challenged at Saint Ignatius, especially to put the Gospel into action. “That was always stressed by the Jesuits. And in academics, they pushed you to rise to the next level,” says Hugh. He was especially influenced by Theology teacher Fr. Robert Welsh, S.J. ’54 and English teacher Fr. Bernard Streicher, S.J.
Hugh wanted to attend Xavier University or John Carroll, but his college counselor suggested student loans that would leave him with about $20,000 of debt. “I knew I couldn’t do that! I had to help out at home,” he says. He decided to work full-time and study history and secondary education at Cleveland State University, intending to become a teacher. He later changed plans when his uncle encouraged him to attend law school.
Graduating from the University of Akron School of Law in 1983, Hugh married his wife Debbie and began a private practice in Lakewood and Fairview Park, eventually focusing on probate and elder law, including guardianships, estates and trust law. As he developed a reputation for professionalism and compassion, Hugh was referred cases by the courts and other attorneys. “I became guardian for many people who had nobody. They were often mentally incompetent, with no one to look after their affairs. As a nurse, my wife Debbie would help triage their medical situation while I handled their financial affairs. To me, it was really part of living life as a Catholic.”
When asked about his philosophy on the law, Hugh explains, “My mom would always say, ‘Whenever you encounter someone, treat them how you would want to be treated.’ She told me to see the good in them, to see the face of Christ, but also be
the face of Christ. I especially use this approach with the elderly, as they often need more than just an attorney.”
Hugh took on part-time roles as a Magistrate with Cuyahoga County Probate Court and Rocky River Municipal Court until 2015 when he left private practice to become a full-time Magistrate in Cuyahoga County Probate Court.
Longtime friend and fellow attorney Gary M. Georgeff ’72 describes Hugh as being the “face of Christ to people by helping them secure proper medical care and benefits, handling their finances to secure housing for the rest of their lives and establishing dignified pre-paid burial plans for them. He has always treated his wards as if they were members of his own immediate family.”
Hugh is a member of St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in Fairview Park, Knights of Columbus, Lawyer’s Guild of the Catholic Diocese and served as a Trustee of the Westshore Bar Association.
Hugh’s family includes his wife, Debbie, and their children, Caitlin (an attorney) and Kevin ’08 (a Registered Nurse).
Hugh will receive his award at the 40th Annual Bellarmine Award Luncheon being held on Thursday, April 12. REGISTER NOW