The Nashville School of Law community gathered for the 20th annual Recognition Dinner on June 7 to pay tribute to three legendary local leaders who share a commitment to justice, dedication to legal education and a lifelong passion for service. NSL alumna Judge Barbara Haynes received the 2013 Distinguished Alumna Award, and faculty member Marshall Davidson was honored with the 2013 Distinguished Faculty Award. The 2013 Community Service Award went to former NSL student and revered public servant Howard Gentry, Jr.
The Recognition Dinner (chaired by Charlie Niewold and held at the Renaissance Hotel Nashville this year) brought together hundreds of alumni, faculty, students and friends of the law school to herald honorees.
Each honoree was recognized for his or her distinct contributions from the classroom to the courtroom and beyond. Haynes established herself as a legal leader with 30 years of service, most recently as Circuit Court Judge in the 20th Judicial District. Faculty honoree Davidson has been a popular and respected instructor at NSL for 21 years while serving as a staff attorney for the Tennessee Supreme Court. Gentry, who is the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk, has held a number of leadership roles, including serving as Metro Nashville’s first African American vice mayor.
“For two decades, the NSL community has gathered to recognize and honor the outstanding work of those who advance the cause of equal justice under the rule of law, ” said NSL Dean Joe C. Loser, Jr.
Haynes’ road to receiving the Distinguished Alumna Award started with the impact of one course at NSL. Haynes worked as her husband’s legal secretary before deciding to enroll in NSL after witnessing the effect of injustice.
“I decided to take one course at NSL to see what I thought of it, and I was hooked,” said Haynes. “I looked into other programs, but I was a mother and didn’t want to give up everything that came along with it. NSL was perfect.”
A 1975 NSL graduate, Haynes was elected County General Sessions Court Judge in 1982. Four years later, Gov. Lamar Alexander appointed her to chair the Tennessee Sentencing Commission, where she oversaw the rewriting of the Tennessee Criminal Code. In 1990, she was elected circuit court judge in the 20th Judicial District, a position she held until she retired from the bench in 2011.
During his 21-year tenure as an NSL faculty member, Davidson has garnered four Teacher of the Year awards. Davidson has also been a staff attorney for the Tennessee Supreme Court for 21 years. He is a 1989 graduate of University of Tennessee College of Law and taught for more than a decade at Middle Tennessee State University.
“Marshall has earned this honor because of his tireless and unwavering commitment to his students, as well as the law,” Dean Loser said. “NSL and its students are fortunate to have a teacher as passionate about education and legal excellence as he is
Gentry is the recipient of the 2013 Community Service Award as a result of his work on the job and in the community with organizations including Metropolitan Homelessness Commission, NAACP, Nashville Alliance for Public Education, Fisk University and Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Gentry’s storied career spans banking, higher education, nonprofits and public service.
After earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education from Tennessee State University (TSU), Gentry attended NSL for two years before returning to TSU as associate vice president for administration. Gentry then became TSU Director of Athletics, Nashville Metro Council member-at-large and then Metro Nashville’s vice mayor.
Those two years I spent at NSL gave me a legal education that has helped me throughout my career,” said Gentry. “The first couple of years you learn how to research and understand the law—and that basic education helped me to do the jobs that I have done over my lifetime.”
Founded in 1911, The Nashville School of Law is a non-profit, independent institution offering a four-year, part-time program of legal education for working men and women. Classes are held exclusively at night. The faculty consists of practicing attorneys and judges. The school is located at 4013 Armory Oaks Drive in Nashville. For additional information, call 615-256-3684.