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CONTINUING THE MISSION:
THE APPALACHIAN SCHOOL OF LAW ONE YEAR LATER

Professor Paul Lund
Associate Dean, Appalachian School of Law
JURIST Guest Columnist

Today - January 16, 2003 - marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic shootings at the Appalachian School of Law. Classes will not be held at ASL today, as we pause both to remember the lives and contributions of Dean L. Anthony Sutin, Professor Thomas F. Blackwell, and law student Angela D. Dales and to give thanks that the other shooting victims, Stacy Beans, Rebecca Brown, and Madeline Short, are still with us. We also reflect on the reason that all of these individuals came to ASL and the importance of continuing the School痴 mission.

The Appalachian School of Law began classes in 1997. ASL was founded by lawyers, judges, and other community leaders from the central Appalachian region, who saw a need for this sort of educational institution in the area. Although great progress has been made in the last half century, Appalachia continues to lag behind other parts of the country in the economic and educational opportunities available to its citizens. Many talented local young people have had to forego graduate or professional education because of lack of access to such programs. Others who could afford to travel to other parts of the country to pursue their educational dreams often stayed away after graduation, thus depriving the region of some of its most talented and promising citizens.

ASL痴 founders hoped that the Law School would help reverse this trend. They also hoped that ASL痴 graduates would serve their communities - whether in central Appalachia or elsewhere - not just as attorneys, but as community leaders as well. To promote this spirit of service among its students, ASL has established one of the country痴 leading community service programs, under which all students must complete 25 hours of community service work each semester. ASL also emphasizes training in alternative dispute resolution, lawyering skills, and professional responsibility and ethics.

Each of the victims of the tragedy of January 16, 2002 was drawn to ASL by its mission. Angela Dales was a native of Buchanan County, Virginia, the Law School痴 home. She worked for ASL as an Admissions Counselor before deciding to pursue her dreams by continuing her education at the Law School. She excelled as a student at ASL and was named to the Dean痴 List for her first semester of studies. Her legacy will live on as ASL graduates go on to make their mark in central Appalachia and beyond.

Tom Blackwell was drawn to ASL by its mission of educating community leaders and its strong emphasis on lawyering skills. Before coming to ASL, Tom had been an honors graduate of Duke Law School, had a very successful law practice in the Dallas area, and had taught in the law schools at Texas Wesleyan and at Chicago-Kent. He was a popular and respected professor, who demanded great things from his students and accepted nothing less.

Tony Sutin also was attracted to ASL by its community service emphasis. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Tony was an associate and later a partner at a large D.C. law firm, where he demonstrated his commitment to public service through his work with the firm痴 public service department and on a number of major political campaigns. Tony continued that commitment to public service by serving in key positions at the Department of Justice before coming to ASL. His extraordinary leadership as ASL痴 Dean substantially contributed to the institution receiving provisional approval from the American Bar Association in February 2001.

Because ASL is a small and close-knit school, the tragedy that occurred last January 16 hit particularly hard. We all were devastated by the loss of our friends and colleagues, and we all wondered at some point whether the school would be able to carry on after sustaining such a loss. The first days after the tragedy were, of course, consumed with dealing with the immediate aftermath. Classes were cancelled for a week. As the Law School痴 Associate Dean, I was drafted to serve as Interim Dean until a dean search process could occur. We did not have a Dean of Students position prior to January 16, but we added one to deal with the various student issues we expected to arise; Wendy Davis, an Assistant Professor at the Law School, has served with distinction in this new role. Wendy made arrangements for counseling and other support services to be available to our students and staff. (An article by Wendy focusing on ASL痴 response to the tragedy, entitled 典he Appalachian School of Law: Tried But Still True, is forthcoming in the Stetson Law Review.) Other members of the faculty also graciously stepped forward and took on extra course loads or administrative responsibilities.

In the days immediately following the tragedy, we were greatly comforted by the support we received from law schools and other educational institutions around the country. One school personally delivered care packages for each of our students, others sent posters signed by their students and faculty, and many others sent cards, flowers, or other messages of condolence and support. Numerous condolence messages were posted in electronic condolence books for Tom Blackwell and Tony Sutin on JURIST, with which Tony had been so actively involved during the 2000 Presidential recount.

Our attention soon had to turn to efforts to keep the Law School moving in a forward direction. One of the most important goals that ASL still has to accomplish is receiving full approval from the American Bar Association. Not one but two ABA site visits occurred during 2002: a 斗imited site visit in March, and a full site visit in November. We also had to prepare a faculty Self Study and all of the attendant ABA documentation.

Another key to ensuring the future success of the Law School was continuing our strong record of faculty hiring. We were able to hire six new tenure-earning faculty members and two new visiting faculty for the 2002-2003 academic year, all with impressive credentials and substantial teaching or practice experience. ASL now has 18 full-time faculty members.

As 2002 progressed, the biggest question-mark was whether the January 16 tragedy would prevent us from meeting our student recruiting goals. As things turned out, however, we had our largest and most qualified entering class ever this year. Approximately 70% of the new students come from one of five states (Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina), but a total of 22 states are represented in this year痴 entering class. Many of the new students told us that they learned about ASL through news coverage of the tragedy and were attracted by the School痴 mission and focus.

A number of other key developments have occurred at ASL since the new academic year began. The first issue of the Appalachian Journal of Law - for which Tom Blackell had served as faculty advisor - was published this fall. ASL痴 community service program continues to grow and expand. This year, ASL became the first law school to participate in the Bonner Leaders program, through which students who have a particular dedication to community service can earn partial funding towards their educational expenses.

My own duties as Interim Dean ended this January 1, when Jeremy Davis came aboard as our new Dean. Prior to joining ASL, Jeremy served as Dean of the University of North Dakota College of Law. But like Tony, Tom, and Angela, he too was attracted by the importance of ASL痴 mission. We look forward to Jeremy痴 experienced leadership as we continue our efforts to move the Law School forward.

Under the leadership of President Lu Ellsworth and ASL痴 Memorial Committee, the Law School has taken a number of steps to remember those who lost their lives last January 16. The Student Services office where Angela Dales worked has been renamed the Angela D. Dales Student Services Center, and ASL痴 merit scholarships have been renamed the Angela Dales Merit Scholarships. A Thomas F. Blackwell Scholarship Fund has been established, and the Law School has established a professorship in Tom痴 name and is seeking funding to endow that professorship. An L. Anthony Sutin Scholarship Fund also has been established, and the Law School is seeking funding to endow the L. Anthony Sutin Professorship to which Jeremy Davis has been appointed. Those who may be interested in contributing to any of these memorial efforts are invited to contact President Lu Ellsworth at (800) 895-7411.

We thank everyone in the legal community for your support during the past year.


Paul Lund is Associate Dean and Associate Professor at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. He served as the School's Interim Dean from January 17 - December 31, 2002.

January 16, 2003

GUEST COLUMNIST

JURIST Guest Columnist Paul Lund is Associate Dean and Associate Professor at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. Professor Lund graduated first in his law school class at Florida State University and was Editor-in-Chief of the Florida State University Law Review; he also holds an LL.M. from Yale Law School. He served as Judicial Clerk to the Honorable Paul H. Roney of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and later practiced with the Carlton Fields law firm in Tampa, Florida. Before coming to ASL, he taught in the law schools at Florida State University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Chicago, and Syracuse University.

Professor Lund's writings focus on the role and jurisdiction of federal courts. He currently teaches Civil Procedure and previously has taught Evidence, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Federal Courts, Conflict of Laws, and Legal Writing.