The married father of two sons co-chaired Parents Attending Law School (PALS), an organization that provides information and support to incoming students as well as family oriented social opportunities for current students. He was an Innocence Project case worker, a member of Duke’s national moot court team, Senior Notes Editor for the Alaska Law Review, and a member of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, an organization for Mormon law students. His moot court experience motivated him to pursue litigation and appellate work in Washington, D.C., and Orange County, Calif., during his summers.
A dedicated Duke basketball fan, Gochnour served as a GPSC Basketball Committee member for the graduate student ticket campout to improve his chances of getting season tickets. He also worked as an usher at Cameron Indoor Stadium during the 2009-2010 season and traveled with friends to Indianapolis for the Final Four.
“Involvement in extracurricular activities has provided the impetus for my desire to give back to Duke Law,” Gochnour says. “That’s where I made real connections with people, that’s where I got to know people the best, that’s where got to work with professors one on one. When someone does a clinic, is active in a student organization or does moot court, it changes your perspective on what you get out of law school. It increases your buy-in.”
Gochnour translated his passion for everything Duke into a role as co-chair of the Class of 2010 gift campaign with Kat Shea ’10 and Carolyn Gillespie ’10. Each year, members of the graduating class gift committee encourage their classmates to participate in a philanthropic tradition that supports future Duke Law students. Sixty eight percent of students from the Class of 2009 contributed more than $94,000 to last year’s campaign.
This year’s 44-person committee surpassed its goal of raising $100,000 in student gifts and pledges from the Class of 2010 by nearly $5,000. Students contributing money selected where to direct their support.
“This year we emphasized giving people options where to donate and encouraging them give their money to any fund the law school has,” Gochnour explains. “There is a lot of employment uncertainty, and in this type of climate, people wanted to feel personally invested in what they were donating to.”
In addition to his role in raising money for the class gift, Gochnour reached out to alumni this spring as the author of a solicitation letter for the Duke Law Annual Fund, in which he described attending Duke Law as one of his most rewarding experiences. Both efforts reflect his appreciation for the scholarship support that made it possible for him to attend Duke in the first place.
“I want to raise money so that other people in a situation like mine, where the scholarship is really going to be a deciding factor for them, will be able to come and have the same experiences that I did,” Gochnour says.
Gochnour first started thinking about philanthropy as a Brigham Young University undergraduate. A donor’s decision to match student contributions to the school’s annual fund at a five-to-one ratio helped him recognize the value of student gifts.
“That act of generosity made me think about what I valued about my education and how I wanted other people to experience that, and I just resolved to do whatever I could,” Gochnour says. “I was involved at BYU with the annual fund helping them raise money, and I really enjoyed that and felt strongly about it. I think I feel even more strongly about the class gift because the Duke experience was so much different for me.
“It’s such a smaller school, a more intimate feeling,” he adds. “I have made so many good friends, have had so many good experiences with my professors. My time at Duke Law has truly had a real impact on my future.”