In 1994, a gallon of gas was just over $1, Shawshank Redemption was in movie theaters, and Nashville’s “Batman Building” was just wrapping up construction. Also that year, Nashville School of Law held its first annual Recognition Dinner, a tradition that has continued for 25 years.
In addition to the 2018 honorees, this year’s dinner paid tribute to the 72 individuals who have been recognized in the past quarter-century as alumni, faculty, or community service honorees. This year’s alumni honoree was Charles R. Niewold, a 1984 graduate of the School who has been instrumental in carrying on the tradition of the dinner each year. The faculty honoree was David R. Hudson, Jr., who has taught at the School since 2005.
In what’s believed to be the largest social gathering of attorneys in the state each year, the dinner was held June 8 in the newly renovated ballroom at the Nashville Renaissance Hotel. Nearly 600 people attended the cocktail reception and dinner that attracted Mayor David Briley, gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean, all five members of the Tennessee Supreme Court, and many members of the state’s appellate, trial and other courts. The event raised more than $120,000 for the School.
After welcoming remarks from the Hon. William C. Koch, Jr., president and dean of Nashville School of Law, Frank G. Clement, Jr. gave the invocation. Clement, a 1979 graduate of the School, is presiding judge of the Middle Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. He also is a member of the School’s Board of Trust.
During the meal, guests enjoyed a slideshow with more than 100 photos from previous dinners. Prior to the awards presentation, students presented Silver Sponsors with a customized NSL silver mint julep cup filled with flowers. Leadership Donors, who donated $25,000 to the School in honor of the Anniversary Dinner, were Charlotte and Tom Cone; Brenda Franks Hale and Douglas S. Hale; Carol and John Rochford of Rochford Realty & Construction Company; and Mary Frances Rudy.
Charles “Charlie” R. Niewold was the evening’s alumni honoree. The 1984 graduate met his wife, Laura Goodall, on one of the first nights of class at NSL and they married shortly after graduation. Both have practiced law in the Nashville area ever since.
As Dean Koch noted, it is Niewold’s “long dedication to the dinner that has made it the success it is,” but that he “prefers to work behind the scenes out of the limelight. He is more comfortable giving rather than receiving recognition.”
Koch quipped that Niewold was temporarily relieved of his duties overseeing plans for the dinner so that the School could properly honor him this year, but the emphasis was on “temporarily.”
Niewold’s dedicated spirit shows in all things important to him. Dean Koch quoted Niewold as saying, “To realtors, it’s location, location, location; for attorneys, it’s reputation, reputation, reputation.”
“It would be difficult to overstate Charlie’s commitment to the practice of law and to his clients,” Koch continued. “He has a dogged devotion to his clients and to their cases. He takes his obligation to them seriously.”
Niewold readily speaks of the impact other attorneys had on his life and career and credits the lawyers who mentored him for showing him how to be a true professional.
“I was fortunate to have mentors, which I think is so important for young lawyers to have,” Niewold said. “I am thankful for those relationships and opportunities, formed at the Nashville School of Law and with the lawyers that I practiced with.”
Charlie also credits his success with his close-knit law school class of 1984. Niewold thanked those who encouraged him along the way, including his parents who urged him to look outside his home state of Texas for his education, which ultimately led him to Vanderbilt University for his undergraduate degree, then Nashville School of Law.
Dean Koch presented David L. Hudson, Jr. with the Faculty Award. Hudson joined the School in 2005 and became a member of the staff in 2014, serving as Director of Academic Affairs in addition to his teaching duties.
“David’s contributions to the School cannot be overstated. He has touched the lives of hundreds of students and has shepherded them to successful careers on the bench and bar. His affable nature and generous spirit have endeared him to many personally and professionally,” Koch said.
Hudson’s teachings focus on beginning and advanced legal writing and, for the last several years, bar exam preparation. He also has taught Tennessee Constitutional Law and First Amendment Law.
“He really connects with the students in the classroom. He educates from a position of erudite authority without talking down to anybody,” Koch said.
A noted expert on First Amendment issues, Hudson also serves as the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Fellow and recently took a teaching position at Belmont University College of Law.
Upon receiving the award, Hudson shared tales of many of his students over the years and thanked those who have helped shape his life and ultimately brought him to this day.
“It’s really one of the greatest honors of my life,” Hudson said of the award.
He is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and received his undergraduate degree from Duke University. He is a native of Murfreesboro, and he and his wife, Carla, live in Nashville.
At the conclusion of the program, all current and former honorees gathered for a group photo and were presented with Nashville School of Law neckties or scarves. All guests received a mint julep cup imprinted with the School’s logo as a favor.