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Ten years ago, Josephine S. Noble was an orphaned schoolgirl at P.S. 90 in the Bronx. Lucky for her, as she modestly recalled, “I was a nerd, and I always loved school.” Accordingly, Noble’s teachers helped win her a place at the prestigious Brearley School in Manhattan, then Harvard College, and now the University at Buffalo Law School. Earlier this month, Noble, 25, received another boost — this time as the first recipient of the Marie Nesbitt Promise Prize, a $5,000 scholarship established by Manhattan attorney and insurance executive Vikki L. Pryor to assist Buffalo law students of African descent. Pryor, 49, president of SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Co., created the prize in memory of her grandmother, a single parent at age 14 whose own formal education ended in third grade. Nevertheless, Pryor said her grandmother became an accomplished author, orator and advocate of education — for black women in particular. “She pointed me in the direction of great things,” Pryor said of Marie Nesbitt. “When I was five, I said I was going to become president of the United States. My grandmother agreed wholeheartedly. “Now, take that in the context of the year,” Pryor noted. “It was 1958.” Noble, like Marie Nesbitt a single parent at a tender age, had temporary misgivings about becoming a lawyer. Her initial interest was social work. While at Harvard, in fact, she interned for a summer at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services with a stipend underwritten by the firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed. A later internship, with the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law in Washington, D.C., caused Noble to switch her career focus. With reference to the Children and Law Center, she said, “Because it was a small office, I had the opportunity to really interact with the lawyers, the people who write the guidelines for judges in abuse and neglect cases. I thought, this is a lot closer to what I’d want to do.” And so it was on to Buffalo, N.Y., Oct. 4 for the 20th annual awards dinner of the Western New York Minority Bar Association, Pryor handed down to Noble the very advice she heard from the late Marie Nesbitt. “She [Pryor] told me to stick to my guns,” Noble said. “She told me not to listen to people who say I can’t, or I shouldn’t, or I won’t be able to.”

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