Katz Law Library room to be named in honor of Spenser Powell

The College of Law will pay tribute to the memory of Spenser F. Powell by naming a library study space in his honor.

Powell, a 2017 graduate of the College of Law, died on May 26, 2018 as he was participating in a half marathon in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. Following his unexpected death, the College of Law community petitioned Interim University of Tennessee Chancellor Wayne Davis to request the naming of a room in the Katz Law Library after Powell. 

“We have chosen that particular room because Spenser was a near-permanent fixture there,” Dean Melanie Wilson said in her request of Davis. “He studied there so often that students and faculty began to identify and associate the place and the room with him.”

Powell graduated first in his class in 2017 and was clerking for Eastern District of Tennessee Federal District Court Judge Thomas Varlan at the time of his death. Powell had secured a judicial clerkship with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and planned to begin working afterward as an associate in a Nashville law firm.

Throughout his time as a student at the College of Law, Powell was named best oralist of a national moot court competition. He served as president of multiple student organizations, served on the Tennessee Law Review board, and was chair of the moot court board. Since his death, the East Tennessee Foundation has established a scholarship for first-year UT law students in his name.

The petition, signed by 533 members of the College of Law community, states that Powell, “through his historic academic performance at the College of Law and remarkable professional accomplishments in his brief life, has irrefutably brought honor to the College of Law and the University of Tennessee.”

It continues, “In the 128 years of the College of Law’s existence, no individual has earned a higher grade point average than Spenser Powell. While his intellect was remarkable in itself, his use of his gifts to mentor other students, to engage his professors and to inspire us all was inimitable.

“The College of Law has trained many notable professionals, yet none achieved such success so early.”

A dedication ceremony is planned for April 15, at 2:30 p.m. The room that will be named in Powell’s honor, known as the “Upper Reading Room,” is located on the second floor adjacent to the main stairway of the Katz Law Library.