PUBLISHED:May 11, 2012

Graduation Gala: Members of the Class of 2012 honor peers, present class gift

Members of the Class of 2012 kicked off their graduation weekend with a gala on Thursday evening in Star Commons, where they presented their class gift to Dean David F. Levi and presented Justin Miller Awards to deserving JD and LLM classmates.

Class gift reflects “deep love of Duke”
Class gift committee co-chairs Phil Alito, Karen Gift, and Grayson Lambert presented the dean with a check for $108,534; LLM co-chair Daragh Murphy was unable to attend. The gift represented 66 percent participation by members of the graduating class ─ exceeding the committee’s goal of 65 percent participation ─ as well as a $30,000 matching contribution from parents.

“While the class gift has a tangible impact on Duke Law by supporting the Annual Fund, the Clinics, the General Scholarship Fund, and the LLM Scholarship Fund, the class gift also makes another statement: how much Duke Law means to us,” said Lambert. “The years we've spent here have not only trained us for lives in the law, but these years have also seen us build lifelong friendships, make unforgettable memories, and develop a deep love of Duke.”

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.

Caitlin Swain-McSurley “leads by example,” said presenter Shiran Zohar in nominating her for the leadership award. Zohar noted, as did other nominators, Swain-McSureley’s leadership of and volunteer recruitment for the Innocence Project as well as her efforts to establish a Human Rights Clinic at Duke Law. “She has devoted her energy, intellect and heart to ensuring that others are given the justice they deserve under the law. She is devoted, hardworking, and unrelenting; all qualities that will make her a great attorney and make her an amazing leader. She has set an example for all of us at Duke and shown us that you can take what you learn in the classroom and apply it outside of the classroom walls to truly affect and improve others’ lives. She inspires me on a personal level to be a better person and a better attorney.”

Maryann Flanigan, who received the integrity award, “is someone who, throughout her law school career, has consistently demonstrated a commitment to her community and to her principled beliefs--without seeking recognition for her actions from others,” according to nominator and presenter Caitlin Swain-McSurley. Nominators cited her work as a mentor for students at North Carolina Central University, her organizing work within the faith community in Durham and at Duke Law through such organizations and initiatives as the Black Law Students Association, the Immigrant Education Project, and the Innocence Project, for which she most recently co-chaired the reintegration team. “Her involvement gives people who work with her both as sense of security and inspiration to push ourselves harder because of the quality and consistency of her work,” wrote Swain-McSurley in her nomination.

Bethany Lilly and James Gillenwater each received awards for citizenship. Jennifer Bandy, who presented the award, called Lilly the embodiment of the principles of good citizenship during her time at Duke. “From the very first day of orientation, Beth made it her mission to meet and get to know all of her classmates … getting involved in a number of a activities that served both the Duke community and the Durham region more broadly,” Bandy wrote in her nomination. Lilly’s multiple community service activities included leadership in the Women Law Students Association and oversight of its annual conference, which strengthen ties between Duke students and female alumni, and organizing the Public Interest Law Foundation's annual auction. “But I think that her personality is what really showcases her citizenship. She is always willing to befriend a new person, to help another student out with networking, to assist Duke staff with programs for the community, and to share her enthusiasm about the school. Her strong relationships with alumni, faculty, and students in all classes are just further evidence of the positive impact she has had on the community during her time at Duke,” wrote Bandy.

Gillenwater received nominations both from his JD classmates and LLM students, who praised his efforts to integrate them into the overall life of the law school through academics, social activities, and sports. “He made every LLM feel welcome and mixes everybody together,” wrote LLM nominator Chloe Bordon. “He is generous and always offers to help JDs and LLMs in any possible way.” A former professional rugby player, Gillenwater started Rugby Project at Duke as a 2L and, supported by a Schweitzer Foundation Fellowship, taught the sport to youngsters at the John Avery Boys and Girls Club in Durham, enlisting members of the Duke rugby team in the effort. A notes editor on the Duke Law Journal and member of the Moot Court Board, Gillenwater “is a top student and a great source of inspiration for many students at Duke,” wrote Bordon.

Christopher Ford, honored for intellectual curiosity, “is one of the hardest-working students I have met,” according to Ashley Watkins, a nominator and presenter. “He doesn't do it for the grades or the prestige, but because he just loves it. You would be hard pressed to find many professors on the Duke faculty who haven't had Chris in a class or worked with him on a project. His interests are both deep and broad, which has helped him really encompass the law school experience.” A member of the Moot Court Board, Ford participated in four moot court competitions in his third year alone; he and classmate Sarah Boyce won the final round of the 2012 Dean’s Cup Moot Court competition and along with Elle Gilley ’13, he won the regional round of the Jessup Cup International Law Moot Court Competition, where he was named fifth-best oralist, and moved on to the final international round, the first time Duke Law students have done so. He served as an articles editor on the Duke Law Journal and a member of diverse groups as the Coalition Against Gendered Violence and the International Criminal Court Student Network. “His love for learning is almost insatiable and he rises to the challenge whenever given something new,” wrote Watkins.

Ryham Ragab, a lawyer trained in Egypt and the U.K., received the LLM award for leadership and community service. She was lauded by her multiple nominators for being active in numerous activities that took her into the community and brought LLM and JD students together. These included organizing visits to Geneva law firms during last summer’s Duke-Geneva Institute in Transnational Law, participating in the Street Law Mock Trial Program in Durham schools, offering Arabic translation services for the Iraqi Refugee Assistance project and for JusticeMatters, participating with the International Law Society and in the Twiggs-Beskind Mock Trial Tournament, and helping prepare the Duke Law team for the Vis Moot Competition in Vienna, and organizing a Duke Law team to compete in the first LLM arbitration moot court competition held at American University. She also took part in a number of public events, sharing her experiences as a Muslim woman at Duke, and participating on a North Carolina Bar Association panel alongside a visiting delegation of female Afghani lawyers. “Ryham has managed to do that while being a dedicated student and a kind, helpful friend to all of us,” wrote nominator Noor Alfawzan, who also presented the award to Ragab.