The Graduation Gala: Members of the Class of 2011 honor peers, present class gift

May 13, 2011Duke Law News

Four graduating JD students were honored by their peers with Justin Miller Awards at Duke Law’s Graduation Gala on May 12. Tricia Hammond, James Pearce, Daniel Leslie, and Chase Anderson were honored with awards for leadership, integrity, citizenship, and intellectual curiosity, respectively. LLM students gave the LLM Award for Leadership and Community Participation to Jo-Ting “Darcy” Huang.

The class gift campaign co-chairs also presented the gift to Dean David F. Levi during the gala. To date, the class has raised more than $104,000 in cash and pledges for Duke Law School. Faculty, parents, and alumni also contributed to the gift along with more than 40 percent of the graduating class. Phil Rubin, James Van Strander, Ian Mok, and Anastasia Kilmenko co-chaired the campaign on behalf of the JD and LLM classes.

The awards are named in honor of Justin Miller, who served as dean of Duke Law School from 1930 to 1934. Members of the graduating class nominate classmates who exemplify the qualities that Miller exhibited and espoused during his tenure.

Hammond leads by example and truly has made a difference in the community, Corinne Oshima wrote in her nomination. Oshima, who presented the award to Hammond, cited her classmate’s work on the Innocence Project and as a co-chair of Street Law at the Durham Youth Home. Another nominator praised Hammond’s handling of refugees’ legal problems through the Refugee Asylum Support Project and participation in spring break service trips and, like Oshima, noted her leadership outreach beyond the Law School walls: As an Albert Schweitzer Fellow in her third year, Hammond partnered with a Duke medical student to lead a group of more than 50 law and medical student volunteers in teaching and mentoring young people incarcerated at the detention facility, spending several evenings each week providing legal and life skills education and developing lesson plans to help ensure sustainability of the initiative.

Pearce, who received the award for integrity, was described by one classmate as being a role model for all Duke Law students. “He is extraordinarily kind, intelligent and dedicated to helping others. He truly inspires me to do more for others both at this school and in the world,” she wrote. “He is the model of honesty and integrity and his work before law school and at the school further demonstrate his commitment to justice.” Pearce came to Duke Law after serving for a year as a rule of law officer with the United Nations Development Programme in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, and working with refugees in Turkey, Egypt, and Sudan. As a 1L he co-founded the Student Organization for Legal Issues in the Middle East and North Africa (SOLEMINA), which another nominee cited as evidence of Pearce’s altruism. “His maturity is unsurpassed, and he lives his life pursuant to strong principles,” wrote another classmate. “If I ever found myself in an ethical or moral dilemma, he would be the first one that I would approach for advice.”

In presenting Leslie with the citizenship award, Kristen Wolff cited his many activities at the Law School and across campus, such as preparing tax filings with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance project, leading the J. Reuben Clark Society, and helping organize ESQ 2010. “Most importantly, [he] is a trusted friend to many at the law school,” Wolff said. “He is always willing to lend a hand with a tax or accounting question and always there to greet you with kind words, encouragement, and a smile. He is always the very last person to complain or get discouraged. And I think I speak for everyone in our class when I say [he] has taught us about life.” Leslie was paralyzed in a 2004 diving accident. “He has taught us to never be too proud to ask for help. He has taught us that asking for help is courageous. He has reminded us that there are things in life that are so much more important than grades and project deadlines. He reminds us to savor life's blessings,” said Wolff.

Several classmates mentioned Anderson’s palpable delight in legal research and writing on an array of topics in nominating him for the intellectual curiosity award. “To me, he is the personification of what this award is meant to recognize,” said Jennifer Sanderson in presenting the award. “He spends the majority of his time researching, writing, and thinking about legal issues for the sheer love of pushing intellectual boundaries.” Like other nominators, she praised his humility and his ability to express complex thoughts clearly, predicting that his future lies in academia. He “is capable of explaining his thought processes to any layman,” she said. “He could easily stand in front of a law school lecture or kindergarten class — he literally can teach anyone anything. … I am excited to one day watch him give a lecture when he becomes a law professor.” Anderson’s note, “A Quest for Fair and Balanced: The Supreme Court, State Courts, and the Future of Same-Sex Marriage Review after Perry,” was published in the Duke Law Journal in March.

Huang, from Taiwan, demonstrates “a genuine concern for her fellow students’ well-being and always has time for everyone, whether it’s catching up or looking after your computer in the library, offering to assist us if we need anything, to offering to take all of our injured sports-playing LLMs to the hospital. She’s always been a friendly fixture here at Duke,” one classmate wrote in nominating her for the LLM award. Several commended her for setting up and managing a Facebook page for the LLMs even before their arrival at Duke, diligently sharing advice, and later organizing many community activities, including the first Thanksgiving dinner party most had ever experienced. Huang also helped spring exchange students adjust to their mid-year arrival, taking two to watch a Duke basketball game shortly after they arrived, one nominator wrote. “She wanted them to experience the spirit of Duke as well as know some of the LLMs. She wanted to help them fit in to this new place.”

Jeff Coates, the associate dean for Alumni and Development, said the class gift will have significant impact. "This act of generosity speaks to the quality of the students' experience," he said. "I believe it is fitting that their first act as the school's newest alumni is to support future generations of Duke Law students."
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