PUBLISHED:April 11, 2024

Christopher Buccafusco receives 2024 Distinguished Teaching Award and Derrick Jeffries is named Distinguished Staff Member


Student-voted D.O.N.E. awards also went to George Naser Khoury ’24, Margaret Kruzner ’24, Casey Witte ’24, and three student groups

Derrick Jeffries Derrick Jeffries

Christopher Buccafusco received the Distinguished Teaching Award and Derrick Jeffries was honored as Distinguished Staff Member at the 2024 D.O.N.E. Awards on April 10.

Buccafusco, the Edward & Ellen Schwarzman Distinguished Professor of Law, who teaches classes including Torts, Copyright Law, and Design Law, has had “an indelible academic impact” on his students and made them think about the law in a much deeper and sophisticated way, said one student who nominated him. 

Accepting the honor, Buccafusco said he was “incredibly impressed” with the students at Duke Law and grateful for his colleagues. 

“Getting to be a law professor anywhere is a kind of loophole in the universe. We are incredibly lucky to get to do this, but we are especially lucky to get to do this here at a place like Duke,” he said.

The D.O.N.E. Awards – D.O.N.E. stands for Duke Law Outstanding and Noteworthy Endeavors – are sponsored by the Duke Bar Association to honor students, student organizations, faculty members, and staff who have made significant contributions to the Duke Law community through their leadership, innovation, service and dedication. 

Nominations are submitted by students and winners are determined by a committee of students from all three JD class years and the LLM class.

DBA Academics Chair Jody Messick ’26 hosted the ceremony.

The first award, for Distinguished Staff Member, was presented by Emma Cline ’26 to Derrick Jeffries, a member of the Facilities staff and a positive and steadying presence in the halls of Duke Law. Jeffries, she said, consistently goes above and beyond for students — getting to know them, returning lost items, and, importantly, remembering what they share about themselves.

As his family and friends looked on, Jeffries took the podium amid loud applause from students, and spoke movingly about the power of a smile and a kind word.

“I don't do this for me. I do this for y’all. I take my job seriously,” Jeffries said with a catch in his voice. “All the students and staff, everybody I meet, I'll say ‘Good morning’ because you never know what kind of day a person had before. Greeting them with a smile or a good morning can change their mood, can change their day.

“I just try to be encouraging and show support to all the students. I see how hard it is. I see how there are late nights, there are early mornings, how they come in tired sometimes, and I just try to encourage them,” Jeffries said.

“Peace and your mental health are very important. So when you feel crammed and just overwhelmed, take a break but don't quit. Do something you enjoy doing. If it is going to get something to eat, getting something to drink, just sitting outside, just getting some sun, take a break but don't quit — and come back.”

Christopher Buccafusco
Christopher Buccafusco

Buccafusco, the Distinguished Teaching honoree, was described by a student as ‘simply the most amazing, iconic and incredible professor’ they have had at Duke, presenter Hamza Chaudhry ’25 said.

“Whether he is teaching 1L Torts or Copyright, this professor brings a unique analytical rigor to his classroom,” Chaudhry said. “[He] is also noteworthy for the energy and commitment he brings to Duke Law. … This year's award winner consistently goes the extra mile to show his love for our community.” 

As a student in Buccafusco’s Torts class, Chaudhry said, “my assumptions about the law were pushed to their limits in an environment that was both relaxing yet deeply enriching. [His] lecture on the intersection between disability rights, tort law, and measures of happiness is something that fundamentally shaped how I see the world.”

Buccafusco said he was deeply honored to receive the student-voted award and called being a law professor “a great job.”

“The kinds of people I get to work with here, my colleagues on the faculty who inspire me to write and think about new ideas in new ways, the staff that we have, are just the best possible people,” he told students. 

“All of these people make our lives infinitely better every single day that we come in, and we are incredibly lucky to get to work with them, but I feel especially lucky to get to work with you. I am just so incredibly impressed with your dedication, your thoughtfulness, and the ways in which you relate to one another.

“The law is enormously serious. The sorts of discussions that we have every day in class and outside of class determine the course of people's lives, affect how massive amounts of humanity co-exist with one another, and the extent to which you are all capable of taking those sorts of questions incredibly seriously, but also — and this is key for me, and I think for you — not necessarily taking yourselves all that seriously, this is a hugely valuable thing to do. Your ability to make sure that you are understanding that the stuff we do matters, but that we can all nonetheless engage with one another in a friendly, compassionate, thoughtful way has been hugely inspiring to me.”

Three student leaders were also recognized for their service and community-building efforts:

  • Margaret Kruzner ’24 received the Outstanding Student Organization Leader Award for her “tireless” leadership of the Moot Court Board. “It is often a thankless job to be the leader of an organization like Moot Court because everyone wants to compete or have the honor on their resume, but she took on the mantle and oversaw several competitions and handled it all with grace,” Cline said. “I have gotten to know [Margaret] over the past semester and she has been an incredible role model for me.”
  • Casey Witte ’24 received the Outstanding Contribution to the Duke Law Community award for consistently going above and beyond to cultivate a supportive and inclusive community for his peers. “Whether through organizing events, spearheading initiatives, or simply lending a listening ear, he has demonstrated a profound commitment to the wellbeing and success of his fellow students,” Messick said. “His impact extends far beyond the confines of our classroom and lecture halls. He has been a beacon of encouragement and support, inspiring others to strive for excellence and to embrace the values of collaboration.” 
  • George Naser Khoury ’24 won the Richard Lin Service Above Self Award, which honors Lin, a member of the Class of 2016, and is given to a student who embodies Lin’s qualities of optimism, integrity, humility, and generosity of time and energy. “As Richard shared during his [Convocation] address in 2016, this year's award winner is one of those ‘solid people who do the right thing on a daily basis and makes a world of a difference,’” Chaudhry said. “When one student had to defend her master's thesis on a random weekday afternoon and could not find childcare, he volunteered to watch her son for the afternoon in the office. And he did not just watch him, he fed him snacks, played iPad videos, and even blew his nose when his asthma kicked in.” George Khoury is “one of the most compassionate, kind and selfless individuals in our community.” 

Student organization awards were given to:

  • First Class, honored for Greatest Role in Building Relationships. In a relatively short time, First Class has built strong relationships through activities such as bringing in guest speakers on topics like personal finance — and making sure each student had the relevant book — and inviting experienced lawyers and alumni for informal knowledge sharing with students over coffee. “This organization facilitates belonging in our community by bringing attention to critical life skills essential that are essential for every pre-professional student,” Messick said. “As first generation lawyers, these interactions have not only provided invaluable mentorship opportunities, but have also forged long lasting connections that extend beyond the confines of our campus.”
  • The Duke Law Federalist Society was recognized for Outstanding Contribution to Civil Discourse. “The importance of creating spaces for informed discussion is more challenging than ever. The sheer number of events that this organization has hosted is impressive in its own right, but what's more, this organization has not shied away from tackling contentious issues like censorship, gender and sports and abortion on the constitution,” Messick said. “It has also delved into the complexities of judicial review and practicing law with integrity. … This organization's dedication to fostering open dialogue and intellectual engagement has left a mark on the Duke law community.”
  • Broad Street Law, which leads interactive pre-law lessons twice a week for children in detention at the Durham Youth Home, received the award for Greatest Service to the Outside Community for “igniting an enthusiasm for learning in kids and teenagers. They strive to make legal concepts comprehensive, yet digestible, engaging, yet approachable on topics such as criminal law, copyright law, and more,” Messick said. “As one student said in their nomination, ’There were countless meaningful moments that underscored the impact of this program. The students at the Durham Youth Home consistently surprised and inspired us with their candor, curiosity, and eagerness to engage … These young minds grappled with complex legal and societal issues with maturity and insight.’”
The 2024 D.O.N.E. Awards honorees
The 2024 D.O.N.E. Awards honorees