Eighty-two law students received their Juris Doctor degrees at Nashville School of Law’s 114th Commencement Ceremony on May 28, 2022, at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel.
The graduates were cheered on by more than one-thousand family members and friends, NSL Board of Trustees, Faculty and Staff.
NSL Dean William C. Koch, Jr. welcomed the crowd and was quick to praise the Class of 2022’s ability to navigate through the stress and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Through it all, the Class of 2022 found new ways to learn, study and collaborate,” said Koch. “I congratulate each of you for your tenacity, resilience, and agility in overcoming these challenges; you deserve this celebration.”
Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby addressed the graduates.
She talked about the importance of supporting America’s democracy and how, as lawyers and stewards of the truth, they will have the ability to bring people together.
“People can talk to each other more civilly and more constructively about how to solve problems when they first come to a general agreement about the basic facts. That is what lawyers do, every day,” said Kirby.
“So here is what you can do, model that thinking to your friends and family. Be explicit about it. Show them how lawyers approach problems and gently bring them along. If all of us model the lawyer’s way of thinking, it will have a positive impact on our public discourse.”
After students crossed the stage to receive their diplomas from Dean Koch, a member of the Honorable Society of Cooper’s Inn, those who graduated in the top ten percent of their NSL class, Robert Laxson, shared a farewell message.
“It is time to realize our opportunity and its value. It is also a time to realize the responsibility we will carry as attorneys, both while practicing pending admission and after being licensed,” said Laxson.
“Perhaps our most important job over the balance of our lives will be guardians of the truth in a world where the meaning of truth seems to be hanging in the balance. As President Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.’”
In his Charge to the Graduates, Dean Koch congratulated the NSL Class of 2022 and reminded them that they have the potential to create impactful, positive change.
“We hope we have succeeded in empowering each of you to believe deep in your souls that you matter and that your responses to the challenges awaiting you can make an enormous difference in other peoples’ lives. As lawyers, having that ability means you also have an obligation not to squander it” said Koch.
The Dean’s Certificate of Recognition is awarded to graduates completing 50 hours of Pro Bono Service throughout their law school career.
This year’s recipients include Dennis Disney, Shannon Celeste Kerr, Danielle Montooth, Julie Downs Payne, John David Peppers, and Robert Dillon Sykes.
Robert Dillon Sykes also received the Dean’s Certificate of Excellence for recording the most pro bono hours.
This year’s Founder’s Award recipient is Julie Downs Payne, who earned the highest overall grade point average.
This year’s Honorable Society of Cooper’s Inn (top ten percent) includes: Nicholas Alexander Bellamy, Turner Smith Evans, Shannon Celeste Kerr, Robert Wesley Laxson, Stephanie Limbaugh Nolan, Julie Down Payne, John David Peppers, and Matthew Steven Wood.