Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Law School Tragedy Gives Us a Chance to Appreciate the Fallen

In the May 2002 edition of the Student Lawyer Magazine (American Bar Association's Law Student Division), I wrote about the three individuals who tragically lost their lives in the January 16, 2002 shootings at the Appalachian School of Law, in Grundy, Virginia.  I'd like to share with you what I wrote then, as we remember them ten years later:

"Dean Anthony Sutin, Professor Thomas Blackwell, and first-year student Angela Dales meant many things to many people.  To the Appalachian School of Law community, they were and remain above all true and dear friends. We will forever miss them in their spirits, their love, and their contributions.

"On January 16, 2002, a trouble student with a handgun took the lives of three of the most magnificent people I've ever known.  These individuals touched the lives of those who had the opportunity to spend time with them.  Is is in their honor that we will go forward and carry out our school's unique mission to serve our small community of Grundy, VA, the Appalachian region, and beyond.

"Dean Sutin was more than just a dean.  He was also a professor, a mentor, a confidant, and, most important, a friend.  He always made time for his students.  His door was always open, and we were welcome to visit at any time.  Whether we were there to discuss personal matters, political issues, or his teachings in constitutional law, Dean Sutin listened and, when the time was right, provided comfort and understanding.

"Professor Blackwell was a man of many hats, including those he wore as a proud Texan.  Whether he was acting as a professor, faculty sponsor, mentor, or friend, he always did so with compassion and concern.  His ability as a legal writing professor to encourage his students to face their fears and strive to overcome their weaknesses was unparalleled.  His ability to bring out the best in all of his students was second only to his ability to bring out the best in himself.  In the time I spent with Professor Blackwell, I never saw him discouraged or unhappy.  Instead, I saw him as driven and inspired to help his students and make a difference whenever possible.

"Angela Dales was one of the most unique individuals I've ever known.  Before enrolling at Appalachian, she was a student recruiter for our school.  Her ability as a recruiter was largely responsible for every student now enrolled here.  In fact, she was so dedicated that she ultimately recruited herself.  During her brief time as a student, Angela immersed herself in academics and extracurricular activities.  She took on her new role with the same determination and desire that she used as a recruiter.  And my memories of her smile that could always brighten a room will no doubt help brighten the days ahead.

"As we move forward from our tragedy, we will never forget the impact that Dean Sutin, Professor Blackwell, and Angela Dales hand on our lives.  We will never forget their abilities to bring out the best in all of us and to make our world a better place.  It is because of these three individuals that the Appalachian School of Law will survive and continue to grow stronger."

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