PUBLISHED:May 08, 2015

Graduation kick-off: Class of 2015 presents Justin Miller Awards, class gift at gala

The members of the Class of 2015 celebrated their upcoming graduation at a Thursday night gala in Star Commons. During the festivities they honored their peers with Justin Miller Awards and presented the 2015 class gift to Dean David F. Levi.

Justin Miller Award winners embody excellence

The Justin Miller Award winners are individuals selected by their peers as demonstrating the highest levels of citizenship, intellectual curiosity, integrity, and leadership during their time at Duke Law. The awards honor the example and memory of Justin Miller, the Law School’s dean from 1930 to 1934, who implemented values at Duke that remain foundational to the Duke Blueprint to LEAD and to the Duke Law experience.

Judea Davis, who received the Award for Integrity, was commended by presenter Jana Kovich and multiple nominators for her strength of character, the strength of her convictions, and her “unwavering integrity.” Davis came into law school with a strong sense of the lawyer she would become and remained steadfast to her ideal, Kovich said. “She has worked in our broken criminal justice system to help those most in need of help, through the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, Wrongful Convictions Clinic, and Equal Justice Initiative,” where she has a two-year post-graduate fellowship, said Kovich. “She has brought these values to our community in innumerable ways.” Kovich noted, in particular, Davis’s leadership in launching an ongoing dialogue on the role of race in policing and in the Duke Law community.  The Black Law Students Association, Public Interest Law Foundation, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the Innocence Project also benefitted from Davis’s leadership and contributions, Kovich said.

In presenting the Award for Intellectual Curiosity to Daniel Rice, Davis said he “embodies everything this award is meant to honor: inquisitiveness, scholarship, creativity, and intellectualism.” Through his questions and comments in the several classes they shared, Rice “evinced a deep commitment to not only mastering the law, but challenging it and holding it accountable,” she said, reflecting the sentiment of several nominators. “I knew what [he] said would be interesting, make me think, or tell me something I did not know.” That was his greatest contribution, she added — making Duke Law classrooms places “where students learned from and were inspired by each other.” Davis and others also commended Rice for his commitment to legal scholarship; an executive editor on the Duke Law Journal, he wrote multiple pieces of his own for publication and diligently edited and improved other students’ notes, one nominator said.

Jana Kovich and Patrick Spaugh were joint recipients of the Award for Citizenship.

Presenter Lucy Partain listed the many activities in which Spaugh was engaged, often as a leader: “DBA, Admitted Students Weekend, LEAD Fellows, mentoring, Tricky Dick, mock trial, intramurals, class gift committee, journal.” More important, she said, was the “intangible effect” he had on the Law School community through his warmth and display of genuine enthusiasm: “In the words of one of the nominations, ‘this person has had an immeasurable impact as a citizen of Duke Law.’” By recruiting players from almost every first-year small section for an intramural softball team, he “helped facilitate relationships that might not have existed without his leadership,” wrote one nominator. The team stayed together through all three years and won a national championship in 2014. Partain quoted Spaugh as saying it’s “‘the people’” that make Duke Law great. “I think I can speak for our whole class when I say, this award recipient is most certainly one of those people,” she said.

Haniya Mir described Kovich, who served as a Duke Bar Association executive as a 1L and 2L and as president in her third year, as “an advocate for students” who enthusiastically championed many student initiatives and encouraged them to take on leadership roles within the Law School. She served as a mentor to many students and goes out of her way to help others, Mir said. “I have been amazed by her positive energy and her selflessness. She is one of the nicest people I’ve met in my time at Duke Law.” Various nominators echoed those sentiments, lauding Kovich’s visibility as DBA president, her leadership in the effort to revive Parents Weekend, and her support of such student-led initiatives as those concerning race relations on campus. “She is always quick to define her own law school experience by the opportunities Duke Law affords its student to be leaders,” wrote one nominator.

Leadership Award winner Chris Girouard was praised by multiple nominators for his inclusive and unselfish approach to leading various events and organizations at Duke Law. “As a 1L, he worked tirelessly to organize speakers and events for the American Constitution Society, ACLU, and the Public Interest Law Foundation,” said presenter Zharna Shah. “Our 2L year, he took on active leadership roles in all three of these organizations, coordinated the 2014 Hardt Cup, and led ACS to its first ever DONE award. As a 3L, he has been a careful steward of each organization. As Moot Court Board president and a PILF board member, he fosters leadership and commitment among incoming classes and does everything he can to see them succeed. He genuinely strives to leave the law school a better place than he found it, and our class would not be the same without his excellent work ethic, infectious enthusiasm, [and] good cheer.”

Marco Chan received the LLM Award for Leadership and Community Participation. An attorney from Hong Kong, Chan was praised by multiple nominators for what one called his “academic focus with an emphasis on friendship.” Classmate Osman Safak, who presented the award, noted Chan’s accomplishments at Duke Law, which included representing the school on the LLM Commercial Arbitration Moot Court team, taking part in pro bono projects with Legal Aid of North Carolina, and the “impressive legal understanding” he displayed in all of the classes they shared. He and others also commended Chan’s outgoing personality and willingness to help classmates. “Even when he doesn’t know the answer, he connects you with someone who does,” one nominator wrote. Others praised Chan’s ability to facilitate relationships among LLMs and JDs alike, evident in his outreach to fellow students at Duke’s 2014 Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law in Hong Kong, when he served as a gracious tour guide in his hometown. 

The 2015 Class Gift

Class gift committee co-chairs Haniya Mir and Brett Schroeder presented a $68,111 check to Dean David F. Levi. Mai Tienda Rivera also served co-chair for the fundraising initiative that remains ongoing. Thanking the class, Levi noted that a parent has pledged to make a $10,000 gift if the graduates reach their 65 percent participation goal for their class gift initiative.