PUBLISHED:May 10, 2013

Gala, Justin Miller Awards, and class gift kick off 2013 graduation weekend

The Class of 2013 launched their graduation celebrations with a Thursday-night gala in Star Commons that included the presentation of the peer-selected Justin Miller Awards and their class gift.

A record-setting gift from the Class of 2013

Members of the Class of 2013 raised almost $154,000 as their class gift to Duke Law; the Class Gift Committee co-chairs representing the JD, LLM, and Law and Entrepreneurship LLM graduates presented a check for $146,741.91 to Dean David F. Levi at the gala, with cash and pledges still coming in.  The class surpassed its $100,000 fundraising goal and its 70 participation goal with 72 percent of the class participating.  Both the amount and the level of class participation represent new class gift records at Duke Law School.

“I’ve loved my time here at Duke Law,” said committee co-chair Jackson Eldridge, speaking on behalf of the committee and his co-chairs, JD classmate Spencer Young (who also is receiving an LLM in international and comparative law), LLM candidate Ligia Schlittler, and LLMLE candidate Eb Bernazard.  “On behalf of the class, I would like to thank Dean Levi.”   

Thanking the graduates for their donation, Levi noted the long Duke Law tradition, beginning in the 1930s, of each generation of students doing something for those who follow.

Justin Miller Award winners
Based on peer nominations, the Justin Miller Awards honor graduating students for demonstrating the highest levels of citizenship, intellectual curiosity, integrity, and leadership throughout their Duke Law careers. Justin Miller, who served as Law School Dean from 1930-34, is credited with bringing national attention to the Law School and instilling the qualities that continue to make Duke Law an exceptional place to study.

Haley Warden Rodgers, who received the integrity award, was described by presenter Tatiana Sainati an individual of courage, insight, intellectual honesty and empathy, “an ability to embrace other viewpoints, and a willingness to advocate for justice and equality for their own sake – even when the interests involved seem at best tangential to our own.”  Warden Rodgers, said Sainati, advocates tirelessly for civil and human rights for others and inspires others to do the same.  “A passionate and principled commitment to justice and equality seem to be intrinsic to her.  In class and out, she encourages the thought-provoking discussions that serve as a reminder of how the law can be used to promote equality and change lives.” 

Phil Aubart, who received the leadership award, has led the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) and the Federalist Society at Duke Law, and been active in the greater Durham community as well, said presenter Seth Reich.  Aubart’s continual promotion of civic discourse and an open exchange of ideas in his leadership of the Federalist Society was remarkable, said Reich – and noted by multiple nominators; the Federalist Society has been recognized with two Duke Bar Association “D.O.N.E.” awards, as well as the national Federalist Society’s James Madison Award for Chapter of the Year.  More than one nominator mentioned Aubart’s ability to draw from different ideological standpoints for Federalist Society events, where he often enlisted speakers to debate different sides of controversial issues. “It has continually impressed me how Phil strives to include diverse points of view on the panels, even if he personally disagrees with some the speakers,” said one. “It takes intellectual confidence and maturity to use a position of prominence to promote diverse views, and it also makes the events far more interesting.” 

Maia Pelleg and Candice Reder shared the citizenship award. Presenter David Tseng described Reder as “simply one of the nicest and most wonderful people I’ve ever met.  This award for citizenship should be given to someone we would be proud to have represent our law school community, someone who best reflects the character of our class, someone who could be considered a great ambassador for what Duke is all about,” said Tseng, adding that Reder “definitely fits this description.”  Noting that she also has been recognized for her pro bono efforts, Tseng said that Reder is always willing to help others, “with an ever-positive and friendly attitude.” 

Nominators noted Pelleg’s involvement and leadership in numerous projects, including the Innocence Project, the Health Law Society, various mock trial competitions, and the Haiti Legal Advocacy project, which she co-founded.  Presenter Elle Gilley noted her friend’s “intense passion for innocence” and her initiative early in her 1L year to help exonerees integrate back into their communities.  Gilley admitted having trouble deciding for which award to nominate her friend.  “How can someone be involved in such different initiatives without intellectual curiosity?  How can you gain the trust and respect of classmates without integrity?  And how can you bring start new projects without leadership skills?” 

Intellectual curiosity award winner Andrew Foglia displays an “insatiable appetite for learning,” according to one nominator. A classmate in both a Family Law class and a seminar taught by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Foglia’s “novel insights” made the rest of the class “perk up and truly listen.”  Presenter Katie Ertmer described Foglia’s love of learning as “contagious” and, like several nominators, praised his skill as an articles editor for the Duke Law Journal.  She also noted his leadership in an ad hoc seminar titled “Liberalism and Law” for which he designed the syllabus and enhanced their discussions with his own extracurricular reading. 

Fernando Del Mastro Puccio, a Peruvian lawyer, received the LLM award for leadership and community service.  Several LLM classmates cited his intellect and academic achievements and aptitude across disciplines.  They also lauded his participation in public service and pro bono service as a translator, as well as his interpersonal skills, and kindness towards them.  “He is one of the best people I have met throughout this year,” said presenter Marcus Grahn.  “He possesses an amazing ability to sense and identify other people’s concerns and state of mind, and to always put aside his own interests in order to offer aid and support specifically tailored to address the particular individual’s situation, whether it means just listening to the other or taking the other person’s mind off the situation for a moment through some activity.”