The Journey of a Lifetime
Retired lawyer James Szaller took his first steps to success at Tri-C
When James F. Szaller enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®) nearly 60 years ago, he had no idea he was setting an example for generations of students to come.
Hired by a local steel mill right out of high school, Szaller was positioned to earn a livable wage as an overhead crane operator. But after only a month on the job, he was laid off — and his future hung in the balance.
“I felt lost,” he remembers. ”I was unemployed and without marketable talents.”
Once the shock wore off, Szaller decided to take control of his destiny by continuing his education. But with no money, and only “fair to middling” grades, he wasn’t sure how to begin.
Cuyahoga Community College had just opened, and Szaller soon became one of the first 3,000 students to attend classes there. He found himself in good company.
“Tri-C gave every student a platform to reinvent themselves. All students and faculty met each other for the first time. Everyone was a stranger, but at the same time, a new friend.”
Passionate about becoming better-educated, Szaller jumped in with enthusiasm — even becoming the first elected Student Council president. After graduating with an Associate of Arts, he transferred to Cleveland State to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English. From there, he earned a J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
Szaller went on to enjoy an illustrious 45-year career with nationally recognized personal injury law firm Brown & Szaller. He appeared in state and federal courts throughout the country — including the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court — as well as in the U.S. Senate and Ohio Senate.
Now retired, Szaller reflects on his time at Cuyahoga Community College.
“Tri-C opened the door for me to attend college and instilled a thirst for learning,” he said. “My confidence in my abilities increased dramatically, and the future became much more hopeful.”
Szaller touts the College’s affordable tuition, flexibility and multiple pathways to success as reasons for today’s aspiring students to enroll. He even refers to Tri-C as a “gift” to Northeast Ohioans.
“There simply is no downside,” he said. “Give yourself a chance at life. Start your path to improvement and give yourself the best odds for your future.”