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A College of Law professor and former judge has been recognized for her work with a 2019 SEC Faculty Achievement Award, the SEC announced today.

Penny WhitePenny White, the Elvin E. Overton Distinguished Professor of Law, serves as director of the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution in UT’s College of Law. She teaches evidence, trial practice, pretrial litigation, and negotiation, and assists with the law school’s various clinical and externship programs. She lectures around the country on these topics as well as capital punishment jurisprudence and ethics and professionalism issues.

“It’s an honor for UT to have one of the SEC’s top professors among our faculty,” said Provost David Manderscheid. “Professor White’s national reputation and extraordinary scholarship play a significant role not only in educating the next generation of legal experts but drawing promising new students to the school.”

White spent the first few weeks of the spring 2019 semester Harvard University, teaching advocacy skills while partnering with lawyers and judges from all over the country.

White will receive a $5,000 honorarium from the SEC and become UT’s nominee for SEC Professor of the Year Award. The SEC Professor of the Year, to be named in April, receives an additional $15,000 honorarium.

College of Law Dean Melanie Wilson said White’s extensive legal background and her contributions to the college, the community, and the state make her an excellent choice for this honor.

“Penny White is an incredible asset to the University of Tennessee. We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber preparing our students. Her excellence is undeniable, and her commitment to legal education is unmatched.”

Before beginning her teaching career, White practiced law in a small firm and as a solo practitioner focusing on criminal defense, civil rights, and family law. While a solo practitioner, she successfully argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. After leaving private practice, she served as a judge at every level of the court system in Tennessee, serving as the first female circuit judge in the First Judicial District and the second woman to serve on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and the Tennessee Supreme Court.

While at UT, White has received the university’s Jefferson Prize for excellence in research and creative activity and the Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award. At the College of Law, she has received the Warner Outstanding Teacher Award, the Yarbrough Award for Writing Excellence, and the Carden Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship and Outstanding Service to the Institution. The National Judicial College, where she teaches regularly, has awarded her the Advancement of Justice Award and the V. Robert Payant Award for Teaching Excellence.

White has published numerous articles on evidence, criminal procedure, and ethics, including “Relinquished Responsibilities,” which appeared in the Harvard Law Review. She co-authored a bench book for judges on capital trials and authored a book on the defense of capital cases, for which she was awarded the Ritchie Award by the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards recognize faculty with outstanding records in research and scholarship. There are approximately 14,000 full-time, tenured faculty members in the SEC, and to be eligible for an achievement award the individual must have achieved the rank of full professor, have a record of extraordinary teaching, and have a record of research that is recognized nationally and/or internationally.

The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards and the SEC Professor of the Year Award are both selected by the SEC provosts. These programs are designed to support and promote the academic endeavors and achievements of SEC students, faculty, and administrators.


Karen Dunlap (, 865-974-8674)

Rachel McClelland (, 865-974-6788)