“Dean E. Preston of the Class of 1991, champion of tenants’ rights, you have used your prodigious legal talents to defend a population of people most at risk for eviction, displacement, and homelessness. Throughout your distinguished career in law you have won battles and made breakthroughs for low-income tenants against tremendous odds and hostile adversaries, and your work has allowed thousands of grateful residents to remain in their homes.
A James Bowdoin Scholar at Bowdoin, you graduated magna cum laude with a major in anthropology and economics, and you went on to the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, where you earned your JD in 1996. You worked as a staff attorney at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic for seven years, tenaciously defending low-income tenants against wrongful evictions, substandard housing conditions, and displacement by conversion of rent-controlled housing. You produced rare successes for these vulnerable clients, obtaining injunctions, preventing tax credit abuse, and silencing harassment and threats.
In 2008 you took your fight for tenants’ rights statewide, founding the nonprofit organization Tenants Together, which promotes safe, decent, and affordable housing for renters throughout California. Through education, organizing, and advocacy, Tenants Together works to protect and advance the rights of California’s sixteen million renters. In your role as executive director, you have advanced the rights of tenants by advocating for rent control, eviction protections, and other fair housing policies; by creating a network of resources for renters, and by training attorneys, counselors, and organizers.
While saddened by your leaving, your colleagues at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco applauded your move to create and lead Tenants Together, noting that your current work “fills a critical and essential void for California tenants” and “is a fight that is desperately needed right now.” A local attorney and campaign organizer wrote that your “representation of tenants inspired me to go to law school.”
For your inspirational leadership and grassroots work bettering the lives of renters in California, and for the tangible successes you have won to improve conditions for this vulnerable population, we honor you today. Along with your colleagues, friends, family, and classmates—including your wife, Jenckyn, also a member of Bowdoin’s Class of 1991—we are proud to present to you this 2016 Common Good Award.”
June 4, 2016