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Bill Smith Memorial Lecture Receives Endowment

News Posted on December 13, 2021

The UC Davis School of Law has received funding to endow a lecture series with a 20-year history at King Hall. The Bill Smith Memorial Lecture honors the memory of UC Davis Law graduate Bill Smith ’98, who died in 2001. Smith dedicated his life to disability and LGBTQ rights activism. The lecture continues this tradition. As a student, Smith was the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award winner as well as an active and beloved member of the law school.

Each year the Lambda Law Students Association, with the guidance of UC Davis Law Professor Courtney Joslin, invites a speaker in the disability or LGBTQ rights fields to speak in Smith's honor.

“The Bill Smith Memorial Lecture has been an important fixture of King Hall throughout my time here," Joslin said. "Every year, the students have featured speakers who have been at the forefront of efforts to improve the lives of LGBTQ people and people with disabilities. I’m thrilled that this funding will enable this important lecture to continue.”

The Bill Smith Memorial Lecture was established with the generous support of his family in 2001. The lecture is now endowed thanks to a donor's gift to the Dean's Discretionary Fund. This gift will be used to provide an honorarium for speakers and support other activities related to the lecture.

UC Davis Law Dean Kevin R. Johnson said Bill Smith was an incredible force for justice and that this endowed lecture pays tribute to the impact he made.

"We are proud to carry on Bill Smith's legacy through this series. The insight and knowledge brought by the impressive variety of speakers expands our knowledge, understanding and advocacy around these critical civil rights issues," Johnson said.

In March 2021, Professor Pamela S. Karlan delivered the latest installment of the Bill Smith lecture. Karlan is the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School. She currently is the principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Other speakers have included Georgetown Law Professor of Practice Paul Smith, a major Supreme Court advocate, Seattle University School of Law Professor Dean Spade, and Bennett Klein, an attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

Taylor Brown, a staff attorney with the LGBT & HIV Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, will be the featured 2022 Bill Smith Memorial Lecture speaker.