PUBLISHED:April 20, 2009

D.O.N.E. awards honor teaching, community leadership, and service

April 20, 2009 — The Duke Bar Association (DBA) honored members of the Law School community with its third annual Duke Outstanding and Noteworthy Endeavors (D.O.N.E.) Awards during a barbecue lunch today sponsored by Davis Polk & Wardwell.

The D.O.N.E. awards recognize student organizations, student leaders, and outstanding faculty who made major contributions to the Duke Law community and experience this academic year, said DBA President Stephanie Lam ’10.

“Duke Law School fosters a unique culture that is driven by student initiative,” she said. “Only at Duke Law School is the community defined by the active nature of its students: Students are regular contributors to civic discourse, social impact, and community activism.”

Lam presented a special award for distinguished service to the Duke Law community to Senior Lecturing Fellow E. Carol Spruill, in recognition of 18 years of service as associate dean of Public Interest and Pro Bono. The DBA will honor Spruill further at a late-afternoon reception.

David Lange, the Melvin G. Shimm Professor of Law, was honored with the “Distinguished Teaching Award.” In presenting the award to Lange, who teaches Intellectual Property, Entertainment Law, and Trademark Law and Unfair Competition, among other classes, 3L Sofia Hernandez said his classes helped her find her “voice.”

“His classes inspired my career path, challenged my intellectual curiosity, but most of all, gave me confidence in myself to speak out loud in classes, to share my thoughts and questions, [and] to become an equal participant in an academic setting,” she said.

Several of Lange’s many student nominators praised his intellect, humor, and kindness to students, reported Hernandez. “Describing him, a student said, ‘[He] is amazing. He is funny and engaging. Never shy about expressing his own opinions, but always open to other points of view. He is tough but fair, outrageously smart, and unspeakably kind.’”

Having received a standing ovation from the capacity student audience, Lange talked of the joy he still finds in teaching after 37 years in the classroom. “I did not think I would remain at Duke when I came,” he said. “I thought I would write for awhile and then leave and do some other things, but the truth is I’ve always loved to teach. I love it still and I love you all and I appreciate this wonderful recognition.”

In presenting the award for “Greatest Service to the Community” to the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), Proud Usahacharoenporn ’11 said its members were being honored not only for their longstanding service to students and the community, “but also for their honorable efforts in dealing with the effects of the recession.” PILF made it possible for dozens of students to serve communities across the country, she said.

The International Human Rights Law Society received the “Greatest Role in Building Relationships Award” for nurturing the Law School’s rich cultural diversity through its sponsorship of conferences, lunchtime panels covering issues ranging from the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict to war tribunals, and speakers such as the Honorable Yvonne Mokgoro of the South African Constitutional Court. “The International Human Rights Law Society (IHRLS) has only existed for two years but it has already made itself an integral part of life at Duke Law School,” wrote one student when nominating the group. Its members “always encourage students to start an open dialogue and lines of communication, no matter where they’re from,” said Claudia Ahwireng ’11 in presenting the award.

For the second consecutive year, the Duke Law chapter of the Federalist Society received the “Greatest Contribution to Civic Discourse Award” for its sponsorship of speakers and events that fostered discussion on significant social issues. Presenter Catherine Brewer ’10 suggested the organization should also get an award for “feeding the most law students” as it sponsored and co-sponsored programs on such topics as the future of faith-based initiatives, the Lochner era, and Libertarian ideas.

Katherine “Kat” Shea ’10 received the D.O.N.E. award for “Most Outstanding Contribution to the Duke Law Community.” Listing just some of Shea’s accomplishments, Matthew Levy ’09 noted that she has held or accepted leadership positions in five student organizations, among the many she is involved with, in addition to being named editor in chief of Law and Contemporary Problems earlier this spring. “Of course, this is in addition to volunteer work she does throughout the community, both through the weekly service events and on her own,” said Levy, calling Shea one of the “most outgoing” students at Duke, always quick to welcome Law School visitors.

Chaula Mehta ’10 was named “Outstanding Student Organization Leader” for her leadership of the Women’s Law Student Association (WLSA), the organization that received the “Most Active in Law Student Life Award.” In presenting the latter award, Yen-Chia Chen LLM ’09 lauded WLSA’s sponsorship of multiple social and job-related events, as well as its outreach to admitted students and facilitation of formal and informal mentoring to all Duke Law students. WLSA, he said, “works hard to pass on the information that 2Ls and 3Ls have acquired through experience at school or with law firms to 1L students so they can benefit from lessons we’ve learned. … [T]his student organization also helps pass information on scheduling classes, the OCI experience, and life as a summer associate from one generation of law students to the next.”

Rocio Perez ’10 also noted Mehta’s facilitation of opportunities for networking and leadership opportunities for all Duke Law students, and her personal encouragement to them to get involved in the community. “That says a lot, not only about her leadership skills, but also about her personal sense of inclusiveness,” said Perez.

Closing the ceremony, Phil Rubin ’11, DBA’s academics chair, noted that there were almost 70 individuals and organizations nominated for the D.O.N.E awards, illustrating the depth of commitment to building Duke’s unique culture of collegiality and service. “It was great to see how much appreciation we have for each other and the things that we do,” he said.