Bench + Bar of Minnesota

Colleague Corner: What’s the best gift you ever received?


Gloria Stamps-Smith

Gloria Stamps-Smith is a senior attorney in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, juvenile unit. She has previously worked in the adult services (mental health) section of the office.  Prior to joining Hennepin County, she was a disciplinary counsel for the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

I was asked this question and thought it would be easy. Well, this was not an easy question. I found it to be quite difficult. 

I thought about the first doll I received who had brown eyes and brown hair like mine. My first Easy Bake oven, which was all the rage at the time and oddly enough is now a very hot commodity again. I thought of some precious jewelry I have received over the years—diamonds and other gemstones. I thought of the birth of my children, who have brought me unspeakable joy and are obviously a gift I will forever cherish. 

In the spring of 2022, I went home for Mother’s Day, which is something I had tried to do for several years as my mother grew older. That year, I was able to spend time with my mother and sisters. We had a great time just being together, sharing meals and laughter. I convinced myself my mother was fine because that is what I needed at the time. When I returned home to Minnesota, my daughters asked candidly how she was doing and I said she was fine. While they did not disbelieve me, they felt in their souls they needed to visit her for themselves. I made a turn-around time with them and returned to Mississippi two weeks later with my daughters and grandson. While my mother appeared physically strong and healthy, it was obvious she was not as sharp as she had been. She spent time with my daughters and grandson laughing, taking pictures, and recounting tales of her childhood—including time she spent with her grandparents, how she met my father, and historical information about her family. Many of these stories I had never heard before. I am forever grateful that they insisted on this visit.

Three months later there was a tragic loss in my husband’s family that required another unexpected trip home. During that trip we were able to make a brief stops on the front and back ends of the trip to visit my mother. She was engaging, supportive, and so gracious to my children in their time of need. She provided them with words of encouragement and wisdom to get them through the loss of a relative who was their contemporary. She was a rock.

That was the last time my children or I saw my mother alive, and we are forever grateful for the gift of grace that provided this opportunity to spend time and say goodbye in an environment that was full of hope. This was my greatest gift and one I will forever cherish. 


Mike Mather

Mike Mather is general counsel for HealthEZ, a national health benefits innovator for self-funded health plans. Before moving in-house, Mike was a shareholder at a law firm in St. Paul, focusing his practice on commercial litigation.

When I was a kid, I was absolutely fascinated with flying. Books, toys, video games, and—like most kids my age—Top Gun. Even today, now that I generally understand the science behind the mystery, there is still something amazing about the idea of a 130,000-pound machine calmly climbing into the sky. So when I found out my parents had gifted me a short “introduction to flying” trip at the local airport for my eighth birthday, I was absolutely giddy. 

After a quick introduction with the pilot, my dad and grandfather piled into the backseat of the single-engine plane, while I took the front next to the pilot. For the next hour we toured the skies, flying over downtown Milwaukee, Lake Michigan, and old Milwaukee County Stadium (RIP). I was in heaven. 

Looking back on that day so many years later, it’s amazing how many things I can remember. The drive to the airport. Talking on the radio. Looking down on the city below. The mixture of joy and sadness when it was over. Little did my parents know that one simple gift would grow a joy of flight that still exists to this day. 


Heidi Torvik

Heidi M. Torvik received her undergraduate, masters, and post-graduate degrees at The Juilliard School in New York City; and her JD from the University of Minnesota Law School. She is licensed in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. 

The best gift I have ever received is my education and, specifically, my early musical education in the Montevideo Public School System. My sixth-grade band director noticed I made my way through the beginner flute book in one day, which was unusual. Sensing my aptitude for the instrument, he spent countless hours with me after school to provide extra lessons. Under his guidance, I began learning the great flute repertoire but, more importantly, I began to learn how to practice efficiently, the need for patience, the merits of short- and long-term goal setting, and, of course, the value of good old-fashioned hard work. 

He eventually sensed I needed more advanced training and connected me with a flutist in the Minnesota Orchestra. My parents were generous enough to drive five hours each weekend for lessons. The instruction of these two fine teachers ultimately helped me gain admittance to The Juilliard School in New York. 


My time at Juilliard was transformative and a dream come true. My teachers and fellow students were from every corner of the world, and living in New York City as a performing artist was extraordinary. While a member of the Juilliard Orchestra, I went on to tour with the ensemble both nationally and internationally. I had a fulfilling life as a professional musician in New York for 16 years—performing and teaching at major concert halls in New York and across the country. It was a wonderful life. 

The rigors of performing at a high level have assisted me in my career as a litigator and, in particular, as a trial lawyer. My time on tour taught me a great deal about working with a diverse group of colleagues under very stressful circumstances. Moreover, understanding how to break down complex music theory and harmonic analysis has assisted in structuring legal arguments. I often like to tell my colleagues that once you have had a German conductor single you out for a mistake in front of a full orchestra, opening statements in a jury trial are not so bad! 

At the end of the day, I was fortunate to learn so much from my sixth-grade band director. The lessons he taught me have carried me though my time in New York and applied to my career in the law. I am continually grateful for the time he so generously gave me those many years ago. 

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