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Carl Pierce, left, looks on as Jerry Black presents the Black-Pierce Award to Brooke Burke.
Carl Pierce, left, looks on as Jerry Black presents the Black-Pierce Award to Brooke Burke.

Law Professors Jerry Black and Carl Pierce retired this summer and, in their honor, an award was established to recognize a third-year law student who is active in pro bono and public interest work and intent on pursuing a career in the field.

The 2014 award was presented to recent graduate Brooke Boyd.

This inaugural award was dedicated to the memory of Milli Cunningham, a 1976 alumna of the College of Law and a lifetime proponent of pro bono and mediation, who passed away the day after attending Black and Pierce’s retirement celebration in April.

Boyd provided 531 hours of pro bono work during her three years of law school and also served as director of UT Pro Bono for 2013–2014. She created CASA, a popular pro bono project that provides students the opportunity to work with Knoxville’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, a nonprofit organization that trains its volunteers to represent the best interests of children in juvenile abuse and neglect cases. In addition, she spent each summer during law school working with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. She plans to dedicate her career to representing children in situations of abuse and neglect, both individually and at the policy level.

Milli Cunningham
Milli Cunningham

“Brooke tirelessly worked, often behind the scenes, to make sure College of Law students were aware of the many opportunities to get involved in pro bono service,” said Doug Blaze, dean of the College of Law. “Not only did she make them aware of these opportunities, but she also tried to ensure that each student had access to a meaningful and positive pro bono experience.”

Blaze said the award is a fitting tribute to two longtime law faculty members.

“Just as Professor Black and Professor Pierce are lifelong leaders in their fields, the Black-Pierce award recognizes not simply volunteer hours, but leadership of others in public interest and pro bono work, as well as innovative ideas and approaches to public interest and pro bono work as a student,” he said.

Pierce, left, and Black
Pierce, left, and Black

Black, who came to UT in 1975, devoted much of his career to working in the college’s Legal Clinic. He served as its director four times. Prior to coming to UT, Black was staff attorney with Legal Services of Nashville, director of clinical programs and administrator of clinical programs at Vanderbilt University, and executive director of the Knoxville Legal Aid Society. In 2003, Black was honored by the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for his lifetime contribution to teaching the goals, aspirations, and principles of quality criminal defense to his students, peers and friends.

Pierce came to UT shortly after receiving his law degree in 1972. During his forty-two years at the university, Pierce served as director of the College of Law’s Center for Entrepreneurial Law and taught courses in contracts, business associations, professional responsibility, and legal history. From 2009 to 2012, he directed the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, and he is now writing a book about Senator Baker’s political and legal career.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

Roger Hagy, (865-974-6788, rhagy1@utk.edu)