Philip G. Kiko and Colleen Duffy Kiko Receive GMU's Antonin Scalia Law School Distinguished Alumni Award
Each year, George Mason University presents the Antonin Scalia Law School Distinguished Alumni Award to an alumnus/na whose exemplary actions have raised the profile of the school and enriched the legal community. This year’s award went to two people: Philip G. Kiko ‘77 and Colleen Duffy Kiko ‘86.
Colleen is the chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), for which she was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on November 16, 2017. From 2005 to 2008 she served as the FLRA General Counsel. Most recently, she served on the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board of the Department of Labor. She also served in the Office of Legal Policy and the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, for the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, and in the private practice of law.
Philip has served as the Chief Administrative Officer of the United States House of Representatives, an elected Officer of the House, since August 2016, where he manages the information technology, financial, logistics, human resources, and procurement services provided to Congress. He has held various positions in the Departments of Education and Interior. He has served on four House of Representatives committees, as staff director and general counsel for three of the committees.
He was a member of the third graduating class of the International School of Law, the predecessor of GMU Law School. “I worked every day and attended law school at night. With the pace of a full-time Capitol Hill job and the rigors of law school, it was a challenge,” Philip recalls. “But I remember the sense of excitement we all felt at being a part of something so special.”
When Philip and Colleen met, he had already begun his legal career and Colleen was working for the Department of Labor, where she noticed that everyone who was getting promoted had a law degree. After they were married, Colleen enrolled in George Mason Law School.
Colleen knew that entering law school would mean “having a lot to juggle. Phil was willing to take control of our two (young) children.” She describes her husband as her greatest support.
Colleen graduated from George Mason Law School in 1986 and took the bar exam when she was nine months pregnant. She left the exam and went directly to the hospital, where she delivered her baby.
“Bar exam one day and baby the next,” Colleen laughs, seemingly undaunted by the challenge.
Not unlike other young parents, Colleen and Philip had to decide how best to balance the increasing demands of work and family. Colleen opted to take time out from her career to stay home with their four children. She admitted that it wasn’t a popular decision, but “it was what was best for our family.” The Kikos are clear on this point: “Family always came first.”
It turns out that Colleen’s decision came up in her nomination hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
“Senator Heidi Heitkamp, from my home state of North Dakota, asked me to ‘describe a time when you made a difficult or unpopular decision or choice that you thought was in the best interest of the country.’”
Colleen responded, “Probably the most difficult decision that I ever made was when I chose to quit my career and stay home with my four children and raise them. I do believe that might have been of service to this country, I am hoping.”
Today, Phil and Colleen’s children are grown, with children of their own. The Kikos are busy in their leadership roles as public servants. During this time of working together from home due to COVID-19, they are sharing ideas and getting advice from each other.
“She’s a very good lawyer,” Phil concludes. “I’m so proud to be sharing this honor with Colleen.”