Madeleine Thomas Award

Madeleine Thomas Award

If you are not familiar with Madeleine, she was a local attorney who tragically died in a rafting accident on a family trip.  She was a passionate advocate, and targeted many charitable organizations with her services, her greatest work centered on domestic violence.  

In part, it was through her commitment that the Woman’s Resource Center has become the multifaceted service and education organization we find today.  After Madeleine’s passing, several attorneys discussed the lack of recognition that so many of our extraordinary attorneys in this community richly deserve.  While understanding that each one of us willingly gives personally of their time, expertise, and financial support, it is also usually work that goes unnoticed by the general public.  In hoping to memorialize the charitable work of Madeleine, we as a Bar Association now annually recognize one attorney for the Madeleine Thomas Award.  The criteria for the award are service to the community, non-profit work, and, quite simply, through actions and personal contribution, making this community better for all of us. 

We as a group tend to go about our business, work quietly within the community, never seeking recognition for what many of us assume to be part of the vocation we chose, all the while our media makes every attempt to fully disclose transgression, regardless of how minor, giving the public a false sense of the state of our profession.  It is the secondary intent of this award to reinforce the positive work by our membership that would otherwise go unnoticed by the general public.



2015 Madeleine Thomas Award

A plaque on Madeleine Thomas’ desk read:

'Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think'.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association presented Dan O’Neil and Maura Brennan the esteemed Madeleine Thomas Award at the Annual Fall Dinner, held at Black Star Farms.    

The Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association annually presents the Madeleine Thomas Award in recognition of a recipient’s exemplary contributions to the cultural, economic and social betterment of the local community. The Award honors Madeleine Thomas, a local attorney who worked tirelessly for various social service agencies including the Women’s Resource Center, United Way, American Cancer Society and the Crooked Tree Girl Scouts Council.   Ms. Thomas died in a tragic rafting accident in 1999, attempting to save another.  She distinguished herself through her devotion to public service and as an advocate for women and children. The Award serves as a reminder that the practice of law and the pursuit of justice often require more than mere advocacy.

Mr. O’Neil, of Thompson O’Neil Law Firm, was nominated for his legal skill, as well as his work with the Third Level Legal Clinic, and his work on environmental issues, election reform, and the City of Traverse City. 

Ms. Brennan, who previously worked in family and collaborative law, now works with Indian Legal Services.  She was nominated for her compassionate and competency, including her work on environmental issues, the Michigan Pipeline Workshop, the Sierra Club, and Marion Kromkowski’s Judicial Campaign.

Mr. O’Neil and Ms. Brennan are married, have three children: Mary, Riley, and John.

Past recipients of the Madeleine Thomas Award include:  Jerry A  Colligan (2004), Patrick E Heintz (2005), Jo L Bullis (2006),  Ronald W Sondee (2007), Stephen C. Chambers (2008), Patrick J Wilson  (2009),  The Honorable Thomas J Phillips  (2010), Charles Judson (2011), Charles H Koop (2013), and George R Thompson (2014).

Marie Walker, P72248

Past Winners



Brenda Quick (Law Professor)


Joseph C. Fisher (Alward, Fisher, Rice, Rowe, & Graf)


Marian Kromkowski (Kromkowski & Posner, P.C.)


Maura Brennan (Indian Legal Services) and Dan O'Neil (Thompson O'Neil Law Firm)


George R. Thompson (Thompson O'Neil Law Firm)


Charlie Koop (Antrim County Prosecutor)




Chuck Judson (Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge)


Thomas Phillips (Walton, Smith, Phillips & Dixon)


Pat Wilson  (Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge)


Stephen Chambers (Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge)


Ronald Sondee (Sondee, Racine & Doren)


Jo Bullis (WRC)


Patrick Heintz (Bishop & Heintz)


Jerome Colligan (Bishop & Heintz)