Alumni Awards

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an alumnus whose lifetime career has been highly distinguished, and whose achievements and contributions are widely recognized as significant and outstanding in his or her field. The recipient should be a graduate whose professional career has spanned a substantial period of time and whose accomplishments reflect admirably on and bring honor to the individual, the Bar and the School of Law.

The Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award is an annual award given by the Carolina Law Alumni Association to a UNC School of Law graduate whose accomplishments and contributions have enhanced the school and the profession of law at the local, state, national or international level. The recipient should demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Excellence in the practice of law
  • Excellence in public service as members of the judiciary or other elected/appointed office
  • The high ideals of the legal profession

The Outstanding Recent Graduate Award

The UNC Law Alumni Association established the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award in 2002 to annually recognize a recent graduate for achievements that have brought credit to the school, the legal profession or society. The recipient must be a graduate of UNC School of Law within the past 10 years and must demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Accomplishments within the legal profession
  • High level of community involvement

Professor S. Elizabeth Gibson Award for Faculty Excellence 

The Professor S. Elizabeth Gibson Award for Faculty Excellence is presented by the UNC Law Alumni Association to honor a tenured faculty member who typifies the outstanding qualities of integrity, legal scholarship, exemplary teaching and commitment to service to UNC School of Law and the University.  The award is named for S. Elizabeth Gibson ’76, Burton Craige Professor of Law, to honor the qualities that she exemplified in her more than thirty years as a much loved and respected educator.

2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

John B. McMillan ’67

John B. McMillan has been an attorney with Manning Fulton & Skinner, P.A. in Raleigh since graduating from UNC School of Law.  For most of his career, he has combined a general civil litigation practice with government relations work for clients with state legislative and administrative issues.  In recent years, he has concentrated his litigation practice in the area of eminent domain law representing property owners.  In his government relations practice, he has represented national and state trade associations and corporations before the North Carolina General Assembly and various state agencies.  For his legal work, McMillan has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America in the areas of eminent domain and government relations in each year since those categories were established.  He has been named Best Lawyers Government Relations “Lawyer of the Year” in 2011 and 2014 as well as Best Lawyers Eminent Domain and Condemnation “Lawyer of the Year” in 2013, 2015, and 2017.

McMillan is a past president of The Wake County Bar Association, the 10th Judicial District Bar, and the North Carolina State Bar.  He has served as chair of various statewide boards including the State Bar’s Disciplinary Hearing Commission, the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the UNC Law Alumni Association, and the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund.  McMillan is currently the Chair of the North Carolina IOLTA Board of Trustees and the North Carolina State Bar Foundation Board of Trustees.  Along with many others, McMillan was instrumental in the planning and construction of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Building, The Nature Research Center and the State Bar Building.

He is a recipient of many awards and recognitions, including the Joseph Branch Professionalism Award, Champion of Equal Access to Justice awarded by the Chief Justice’s Equal Access to Justice Commission, the UNC Law Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award, and the North Carolina State Bar’s Distinguished Service Award which was named in his honor upon the completion of his term as president of the North Carolina State Bar.

2017 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

David Fulghum Kirby ’77

David Kirby is consistently recognized as one of the most outstanding and accomplished trial lawyers in the United States. Over the last 25 years, David has successfully handled high-profile cases ranging from product liability and catastrophic personal injury to workplace safety and security. His cases and verdicts have been featured on CNN, 20/20, Dateline NBC and other national media outlets.

Kirby is a member of The Inner Circle of Advocates, an organization of the 100 top plaintiffs’ lawyers from around the country. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America and, in 1996, was named Lawyer of the Year by the national publication, Lawyers Weekly USA. In 1997, he received the national Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award from the American Trial Lawyers Association for his work promoting product safety.  In 2012, he was named a Lawyer of the Year in Raleigh for medical malpractice by Best Lawyers in America and the same publication named him Lawyer of the Year in Raleigh for plaintiff’s personal injury for its 2014 and 2016 editions.

Kirby is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and a Fellow in the International Society of Barristers. Additional honors and accolades include being named among Business North Carolina magazine’s Legal Elite, Lawdragon’s Top 500 Plaintiff Lawyers in U.S., and North Carolina Super Lawyers: Top 10 Lawyers in North Carolina, as well as being a lifetime inductee in the UNC School of Law William Horn Battle Society.

In addition to being a frequent lecturer on trial tactics in personal injury and wrongful death cases, Kirby speaks to high school students annually about the Constitution and Bill of Rights and how they are upheld through the practice of law. He also is a guest lecturer at the UNC and Campbell University schools of law.

Kirby serves on the boards of the Wade Edwards Foundation, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the UNC Law Alumni Association. He is a past president and former board member of the advocacy group, Wake Up for Children and has served on the boards of the Wake County Bar Association and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. In 2005, he was named the Easter Seals UCP Philanthropist of the Year. Kirby was also the founding donor of the UNC School of Law’s J. Russell Kirby Public Service Scholarship and the Rebekah Fulghum Kirby English and Literature Fellowship at UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Douglas Stuart Sea ’80

Douglas Sea is a senior attorney with Legal Services of Southern Piedmont in Charlotte. For the past thirty-six years, Sea's main area of practice has been in public benefits and health law. He has been lead counsel in numerous class action suits against state and federal agencies administering public benefits programs. 

He is a past recipient of the Julian Pierce award for Outstanding Legal Services attorney and of the N.C. Justice Center’s Defenders of Justice Award for Litigation. He has written several articles for publication and is a frequent lecturer before professional groups on topics pertaining to public benefits, health law, and litigation against administrative agencies.  

Sea received his B.A. and J.D. degrees, with honors, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  

The Honorable Patricia Timmons-Goodson ’79

Patricia Timmons-Goodson, vice chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Commission in July 2014. The federal agency is charged with informing the development of national civil rights policy and enhancing enforcement of national civil rights laws. Prior to her appointment, she rendered more than two decades of unflinching and powerfully effective judicial service to the state of North Carolina. The entirety of her public service reflects an image in which all North Carolinians embrace with pride.

Appointed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina by Governor Michael Easley in January 2006, Justice Timmons-Goodson will always receive special notice as the fourth woman and the first African American woman to sit on North Carolina’s highest court. The citizens of the state overwhelmingly affirmed her appointment by later electing her to a full term. Upon retirement from the Supreme Court in 2012, she had served twenty-eight years in the judiciary of North Carolina.

Justice Timmons-Goodson’s professional quest for justice began as a prosecutor and later as a legal-aid lawyer. At age twenty-nine, she was appointed a district court judge and was subsequently elected three times — twice without opposition. In 1997 she was appointed as judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Her successful 1998 statewide campaign earned her a full term and marked the first occasion that an African American woman was elected to an appellate court in North Carolina.

Justice Timmons-Goodson has distinguished herself in the appellate judiciary.  Her legal scholarship and reputation for solid judicial decisions have merited inclusion of her judicial opinions in law school textbooks.

Justice Timmons-Goodson’s years of judicial service to the people of North Carolina have been recognized with awards such as the Advocates for Justice- Appellate Judge of the Year, Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the UNC William R. Davie Award, the NC Bar Liberty Bell Award, and induction into the North Carolina Women’s Hall of Fame. She holds honorary degrees from Johnson C. Smith University, St. Augustine’s College, and UNC-Chapel Hill. Her sterling judicial career led President Barack Obama to nominate her in April 2016 to a federal judgeship. 

Justice Timmons-Goodson is an active member of the American Bar Association, where she has served as an officer in the Appellate Judges Conference, on the Editorial Board of the ABA Journal, and on the ABA Law School Accreditation Committee.

Justice Timmons-Goodson received her B.A. and J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an L.L.M. from Duke University Law School.

2017 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award

Vivian Riner Connell '13

Vivian Riner Connell (March 4, 1964 – August 22, 2016) was an agent for change. For years, she worked as a teacher, encouraging students to act in the face of injustice. She chose to act by entering law school two decades into her teaching career in order to help shape the policies that affect educators, students, and consumers.
Connell was a Belfer Teaching Fellow at the Holocaust Museum and taught at Providence High School in Charlotte and Phoenix Academy in Chapel Hill. She graduated from Carolina Law in 2013. A tireless activist, she was involved in many organizations dedicated to improving education, including Public Schools First NC, Public Justice, the National Education Association, the North Carolina Emerging Issues Forum, Network for Public Education, and Moral Mondays.

Connell’s fight for improving public education came into the spotlight when she began raising funds to take her Phoenix Academy class to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., following the announcement of her ALS diagnosis in 2014. 

Scores of teachers, students, and concerned citizens who crossed paths with Vivian Connell continue to carry on her lessons, demonstrating that the power of her work is not measured in years; rather, it is measured in her passion.  

2017 S. Elizabeth Gibson Award for Faculty Excellence

Charles Edward Daye

Charles Edward Daye, a native of Durham, N.C., began his career with the firm of Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood in New York City. He was a law clerk to the Honorable Harry Phillips, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, becoming the first African American to serve as a law clerk in that circuit. After his clerkship, Daye practiced as an associate with Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C.


He joined the law faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1972 where he was the first African American to hold a tenure-track position on the law faculty. In 1981, Daye was named dean of North Carolina Central University School of Law, where he served until 1985. He then rejoined the UNC-Chapel Hill law faculty, teaching torts, housing and community development and administrative process and advocacy.

He has co-authored two books, “Housing and Community Development,” a course book now in its fourth edition, and “North Carolina Law of Torts; now in its third edition. He has published articles, essays, book reviews, and monographs on a variety of subjects including an empirical analysis of educational diversity, housing, state administrative procedure, torts, constitutional law, ethics in law school admissions, affirmative action, and academic support programs.

Daye has served several nonprofit and public service organizations. The Law School Admission Council which assists the nation’s law school admissions activities, named Daye to its board in 1988 and in 1991 elected him as president and spokesperson. He served on the board of governors and as vice president for legal affairs of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (2002-08). He served sixteen years as either a member of the board of directors or as president of Triangle Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization that operates federally subsidized housing for low income rural elderly and as a member of the board of the Center for Community Self Help. He chaired or served on numerous committees of professional organizations, including committees of the Association of American Law Schools, of the American Bar Association, the North Carolina Bar Association, the North Carolina State Bar, and the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers where he served as Executive Secretary for twenty years (1979 -1999).

In addition, he served as the deputy director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights. For 15 years, he served as chair of the University’s Committee on Scholarships and Student Aid, and he has chaired the University’s Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board. Except during his four years at N.C. Central, Daye was the adviser to Carolina’s Black Law Students Association.

Faced with legal challenges to affirmative action admissions policies, the Association of American Law Schools drafted Daye to serve on a special Diversity Task Force in 1999 and a Joint Committee on Diversity in 2001.

In 2004 Daye received the UNC Thomas Jefferson Award, which honors broad university service and an embodiment of Jefferson’s ideals, one of the highest distinctions the university can bestow on a faculty member. In 2012, when Daye was selected to receive the law school’s newly created annual service award the award which was renamed the Charles E. Daye Award for Excellence in Faculty Service in his honor. 

Daye was an honors student at N.C. Central University and Columbia School of Law and Suffolk University in Boston awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1999. 


Previous Recipients


  • Thomas W. Ross '75 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Mary Boney Denison '81- Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable Rickye McKoy-Mitchell '84 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Amanda S. “Mandy” Hitchcock ’07 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award
  • Elizabeth Gibson '76 - Professor S. Elizabeth Gibson Award for Faculty Excellence 


  • The Honorable Sarah Parker '69 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • John Charles "Jack" Boger '74 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Chris Brook '05 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • Irvin W. ("Hank") Hankins III '75 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Barbara B. (“Bonnie”) Weyher '77- Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Lindsey Roberson '07 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • James E. Delany'73 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • DeWitt F. (Mac) McCarley '77- Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Vasiliki Alis (Celia) Pistolis '82 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Wilson L. White '06 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • Wade H. Hargrove, Jr '65 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • William D. Johnson '82 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Ashley H. Campbell '03 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • John B. McMillan '67 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Ashley Osment '95 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Ben F. Tennille '71 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Edward F.Hanes, Jr '00 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • The Honorable Roy A. Cooper III '82 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • James Y. Preston '61 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Reginald T. Shuford '91 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Harriett Twiggs Smalls '99 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • Karen L. Henderson '69 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • John P. Kennedy '50 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Howard E. Manning'68 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Kristi Kessler Walters '99 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • Marion A. Cowell, Jr '64 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Robert C. Soles, Jr '59 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable R. Allen Baddour '97 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • H. Parks Helms - '61 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • William L. Osteen, Jr '56 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Robert Weisberg '75 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Candice S. Wooten '01 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • Thomas W. Ross '75 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable David B. Sentelle '68 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Christine C. Mumma '98 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • William C. Friday '48 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • J. Dickson Phillips '48 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • E. Osburne Ayscue '60 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • William E. Graham '56 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Sara W. Higgins '95 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • The Honorable Sarah E. Parker '69 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Francis I. Parker '49 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Kearns Davis '95 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • Hubert B. Humphrey, Jr '51 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable H. Martin Lancaster '67 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Matthew T. Martens '96 - Outstanding Recent Graduate Award


  • The Honorable Anthony E. Rand '64 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • H. Patrick Taylor '48 -Distinguished Alumni Award


  • Walter F. Brinkley '49 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Wade M. Smith '63- Distinguished Alumni Award


  • The Honorable James B. Hunt '64 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Raymond D. Witt, Jr '39 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Harvey Beech '52 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • J. Kenneth Lee '52 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Lacy W. Thornburg '54 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • John R. Jordon, Jr '48 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Charles M. Shaffer, Jr '67 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • Doris R. Bray '66 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Burley B. Mitchell '69 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Lindsay Warren '51 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • William M. Cochrane '41 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • James K. Dorsett, Jr '41 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • W. Travis Porter, III '60 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Sherwood H. Smith '60 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • The Honorable Henry E. Frye '59 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Bertha Merrill Holt '41 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Ralph M. Stockton, Jr '50 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • Marion A. Cowell, Jr '64 - Alumni Leadership Award
  • Robert G. Byrd '56 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable C. Boyden Gray '68 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • George W. Miller, Jr '57 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • William L. Thorp, Jr '51 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable Willis P. Whichard '65 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • Reef C. Ivey, II '68 - Alumni Leadership Award
  • Julius L. Chambers '62 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Robin L. Hinson '58 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Hamilton H. Hobgood '36 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Daniel Pollitt - Faculty Achievement Award


  • William A. Dees, Jr '48 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Franklin T. Dupree, Jr '36 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • William A. Johnson '44 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • John Sanders '54 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Donald Clifford - Faculty Achievement Award


  • William B. Aycock '48 - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Kathrine B. Everett '20 - Lifetime Achievement Award


  • J. Dickson Phillips '48 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • William B. Aycock '48 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • Henry Brandis, Jr '30 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • William C. Friday '48 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • William H. Bobbitt '23 - Distinguished Alumni Award


  • The Honorable James E. Holshouser '60 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable James B. Hunt '64 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The Honorable Dan K. Moore '29 - Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Terry Sanford '46 - Distinguished Alumni Award
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