By Casey Duhart (’16)
Originally published in Tennessee Law, Spring 2016
To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). If you have heard that line of wisdom, you know it means we are held responsible for what we have. If we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we benefit others.
As a law student at UT, much has been given to me, so in turn, I am required to give back, and there are some extraordinary people who have given much to me. Maude Riseden Hughett (1909) was the first female graduate of UT Law and the first female law school graduate in the South. Can you imagine the courage that it took for Ms. Hughett to do what seemed impossible during that time? Because of her sacrifice, today as a female, I can learn, be challenged, and compete with my male peers in the law school environment. Lincoln Blakeney was the first black student to enroll at UT Law. I have heard stories about how he had to study in a separate section of the library and how he had to sit apart from his peers in his classes. Although he did not graduate from UT Law, because of his sacrifice, today I can learn, be challenged, and compete with my white peers in the law school environment. Finally, I want to acknowledge RBJ Campbelle Jr. (’56), the first black student to graduate from UT Law. These extraordinary people—and there are more that I could mention—have given much to me, so it is required of me to give to those who will follow me.
In the present, much has been given to me by UT Law, and my time here has been a dream come true. So many professors have made a lasting impact on my life. Dwight Aarons taught me how to diligently prepare for class. He taught me how to dissect a case—word by word. And I will never forget how Ben Barton gave our class a “football locker speech” before we took our Torts I final. He literally acted like he was our coach in the locker room. He did not know that at the very same time he was giving his speech, my husband was having back surgery. My children were three and four years old, so needless to say, trying to get them to day care and worrying about my husband’s surgery, I needed to hear that speech. I felt like Superwoman when I got that exam in front of me! Then, you have Regina Lambert (’01), who has encouraged me to excel in everything I have attempted at UT Law. In my opinion, she is the biggest cheerleader for student success. I could go on and on about how much has been given to me by faculty and staff. I tell you: I am required to give back to UT Law because so much has been given to me!
The Knoxville legal community has also been beyond sacrificial in giving much to me. I have learned “the practice of law” from the Federal Defenders Services of East Tennessee under the leadership of Beth Ford (’77); the attorneys at Egerton, McAfee, Armistead, and Davis; the Knox County District Attorney’s Office; the Tennessee Valley Authority; the attorneys at Kennerly, Montgomery, and Finley; and Judge Deborah Stevens (’88). Many of these attorneys have taken me under their wings, and much has been given to me through their patience and willingness to see me excel in my understanding of the legal system. Therefore, it is required of me to give back to my legal community.
If you have walked through the doors at UT Law, much has been given to you. Although you might complain about professors you had or the student loans you are possibly still paying back, one thing is for sure: much has been given to you. Because much has been given to you, much will be required of you. There are a variety of ways in which you can fulfill that requirement. Whether you choose to use your talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, I urge you to give, so that students like me can blaze trails for the next group of talented lawyers who will follow us.
Duhart is a UT Law student. She presented a version of this essay at the 125th Anniversary Gala in November.