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News Posted on March 12, 2012

Recognition Celebration Honors Professor Lewis, Scholarship Donors and Recipients

Dean Johnson presents Professor Lewis with the 2012 Distinguished Teaching Award Professor Evelyn A. Lewis was presented with the William and Sally Rutter Distinguished Teaching Award and King Hall scholarship donors and recipients were honored at the 33rd Annual Scholarship Recognition and Distinguished Teaching Award Celebration on March 7.  The event featured remarks from Dean Kevin R. Johnson, Professor Leslie A. Kurtz, and scholarship recipient Jihan Kahssay, as well as a moving acceptance speech from Professor Lewis.

Dean Johnson welcomed the audience and thanked the many donors who have supported excellence at UC Davis School of Law.  "With your support, we have built, in just a little more than 40 years, an outstanding law school of international prominence," he said.  "In recent years, we have expanded and renovated our building, recruited and retained superstar faculty, launched groundbreaking academic programs, increased our scholarships, and boosted our ranking.  Just as important, we continue to attract dedicated and talented students.  These are truly exciting times around King Hall, and our success could not have happened without the commitment of our supporters."

Dean Johnson also acknowledged the recent death of William A. Rutter, who, along with his wife Sally, created the Distinguished Teaching Award.  Rutter, who founded the Gilbert Law Summaries, BAR/BRI Bar Review, and the Rutter Group, was "a visionary whose contributions to legal education are immeasurable," Dean Johnson said.

Kahssay, a recipient of the Jun Aoki Book Award, also expressed her thanks to the donors who supported King Hall scholarships.  She talked about how financial support helped enable her to serve internships with Legal Services of Northern California and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Ethiopia, where she provided legal assistance for victims fleeing drought and violence in East Africa.  She credited the King Hall faculty and students for inspiring her public service work and providing her with the "competency, compassion, and generosity" she needed to work with refugees. 

"Students from King Hall spread good to the world," she said.  "We are agents of change.  We're compassionate fighters, and advocates for vulnerable causes.  We defend the defenseless and protect the persecuted.  We are scholars, fellows, and very, very good friends.  We do not merely accept the generosity of scholarships; we also intend to pay them forward."

Professor Kurtz introduced Professor Lewis, praising her as a "pioneer from a family of pioneers" who was the first African American to earn membership in the University of North Carolina's Phi Beta Kappa chapter, a leader in the effort to establish UNC's African American Studies program, and the first African American female partner in any majority owned Bay Area law firm.  "While at King Hall, she has continued to be a pioneer, bringing new courses on subjects of great importance to students to our curriculum," said Kurtz, noting that Lewis' background in business law enabled her to establish courses including Transactional Drafting and Nonprofits.  Kurtz also praised Lewis' support of student organizations including the Real Estate Law Students Association and Black Law Students Association.

Professor Lewis delivered a heartfelt acceptance speech on the theme of "excellence and caring," praising the individuals who have inspired her.  "In my life I have felt most privileged in being around people who strive for excellence while still being kind to others," she said. 

Lewis said she felt "humbled" in being singled out for teaching excellence among the King Hall faculty. "Our faculty is truly special as a faculty of a top tier institution in that to a person we value teaching equally with scholarship." She also  praised UC Davis School of Law students, alumni, and donors, and went on to speak emotionally of the influence of her mother and grandmother, whose hard work, compassion, and dedication served as the "ultimate personification of excellence and caring."

The event was attended by King Hall Alumni Association Board members Steve Boutin '72 and Michael Mills '97, as well as state Senator Lois Wolk, Dean Emeritus Bruce Wolk, Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza '94, and Woodland City Councilman Tom Stallard '75.  Faculty in attendance included Associate Dean Vikram Amar, Senior Assistant Dean Hollis Kulwin, and Professors Afra Afsharipour, John D. "Jack" Ayer, Alan Brownstein, Anupam Chander, Gabriel "Jack" Chin, Angelo DeSantis, Joel C. Dobris, Floyd Feeney, Lisa Ikemoto, Edward Imwinkelried, Margaret Johns,  Thomas Joo, Courtney Joslin, Carlton Larson, Peter Lee, Albert Lin, Miguel Méndez, Millard Murphy, Amagda Pérez, Rex Perschbacher, Edward Rabin, Letitia Saucedo, Donna Shestowsky, Daniel Simmons, Madhavi Sunder, Clay Tanaka, Dennis J. Ventry, Jr., Martha West, Carter "Cappy" White, and Richard Wydick.