2022-23 awards presented during LMU Law commencement

Published 3:48 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law Vice President and Dean Matthew R. Lyon presented the 2022-23 Lincoln Lawyer Awards for leadership, character, and service to graduates Geran Minor, Kendal Walker, and Sonsirez Robles during the LMU Law Commencement ceremony on May 11.

“For the last several years, the law school faculty and staff have selected three graduating students to receive Lincoln Lawyer Awards. The Lincoln Lawyer awards are presented to three graduates who best demonstrate Abraham Lincoln’s ability to withstand adversity and move forward in the face of frustration – to be a strong leader yet listen to different points of view, to acknowledge errors and learn from them, and to share the credit for success and the blame for failure,” said Dean Lyon. “These three students have certainly lived up to President Lincoln’s example during their time at LMU Law.”

Email newsletter signup

The Lincoln Lawyer Award for Leadership was awarded to Geran Minor of Glasgow, Kentucky. Minor has wanted to be a lawyerGeran Minor receiving an award since the fourth grade. She attended the University of Louisville in her home state. Minor was the Student Bar Association President in 2022-2023. She also has participated in the LMU Law Mock Trial Program, competing in multiple interscholastic competitions and serving as Education and Recruitment Chair; served as a Peer Leader and leading the Peer Mentor organization, matching dozens of incoming first-year students with upper-class mentors; and was a member of the Watson, Jr. Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, the Hamilton Burnett American Inn of Court, the Family Law Society, and the Pioneer Law Student Association for first-generation law students.

“Geran leads collaboratively and with empathy, always seeking feedback from her fellow students and sharing it in an open and honest way with law school leadership,” said Dean Lyon. “Her work ethic and drive to give all our students the best law school experience possible has been remarkable.”

Bree Cook, Jordan Meddings, Joseph Duncan, Kendal Walker, Nadean Azzam, Shelby Cross Beal, Sonsirez Robles, and Sophie Fielder were also nominated for the Lincoln Lawyer Award for Leadership.

The Lincoln Lawyer Award for Character was awarded to Kendal Walker of Madison, Alabama. Walker received her B.S. degree from Auburn University at Montgomery. Walker has been a student leader in her three years at LMU. She has served as President of the Black Law Students Association; Treasurer of the Women of the Law Society; Competition Chair and competitor for the Mock Trial Program; and as a member of the Watson, Jr. Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta.Kendal Walker receiving an award

“Kendal approaches every situation with grace. Like the rest of her classmates, there have been times in law school when Kendal has faced adversity, experienced hard times, or just had a bad day,” said Dean Lyon. “When these less-than-ideal circumstances have presented themselves, Kendal always takes the high road. She lifts others up and shows endless compassion and concern for all those around her.”

Deanna Cooper, Gabriel Cole, Grant Klingler, Jesse Mays, Jordan Meddings, Joseph Duncan, Kate Moran, Kha’Doe-Ra Crosby, Michael Lussier, Natalie Batiste, Nicholas Poe-Jones, Nicholas Sisto, Porter Solomon, Sonsirez Robles, and Victoria Small were also nominated for the Lincoln Lawyer Award for Character.

Sonsirez “Sonny” Robles of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands was awarded the Lincoln Lawyer Award for Service. After graduating from the University of the Virgin Islands, Robles decided to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer. Because the Virgin Islands do not have a law school, she knew she would have to attend law school on the U.S. mainland.

Robles has served as a Dean’s Fellow for two years and as the Senior Dean’s Fellow this year; served as Vice President of the Black Law Students Association and Social Event Coordinator of the Hispanic Law Student Association; and was a Peer Leader and member of the Mock Trial Program, Women of the Law Society, and the Watson, Jr. chapter of Phi Alpha Delta.

“Since her first year, Sonny has been a true servant leader who puts others needs before her own,” said Dean Lyon. “Sonny’s unique background and life journey have gifted her with the ability to meet people where they are. She is wise beyond her years and uses that knowledge to serve others to the best of her ability.” Sonny Robles receiving an award

Bree Cook, Dedra Brown, Geran Minor, Grant Klingler, Hannah Clyde, Joseph Duncan, Kate Moran, Kendal Walker, Maria Leonard, Matthew Tuttle, Michael Lussier, Nadean Azzam, Natalie Miramontes-Tankersley, Porter Solomon, Shelby Cross Beal, Sophie Fielder, and Telesha Felder were also nominated for the Lincoln Lawyer Award for Service.

Each of the award winners were presented with a commemorative gift featuring Abraham Lincoln and a certificate.

In addition to the Lincoln Lawyer Awards, Thomas Shields was awarded the 2022-23 Professor of the Year award, as voted on by the entire LMU Law student body. The Professor of the Year award is a way for students to recognize exceptional teaching and those professors who have had a direct impact on their lives and their training as lawyers-to-be.

Professor Shields joined LMU Law as a visiting professor in Fall 2021A 2004 graduate of Ole Miss Law School, he practiced for about a decade in Upper East Tennessee and Knoxville, doing primarily insurance defense work. Notably, he has appeared to represent clients in the courthouses of all but four of Tennessee’s 95 counties. He went on to serve for several years as General Counsel of a large, privately held corporation with operations across several states, before deciding to lend his talents to teaching. Shields has used his practice experience to inform his teaching in a diverse array of subjects, including Civil Procedure I, Business Organizations, Accounting for Lawyers, Federal Income Taxation, and Labor and Employment Law.

“Our students have greatly appreciated his meticulous preparation and his thoughtful and practice-oriented approach to teaching,” said Dean Lyon. “Students mentioned how Professor Shields encouraged them to express their opinions in class, which allowed for open dialogue and healthy debate. Many students have commented that despite having no background or interest in the subject matter before taking Professor Shields’ classes, they left those classes prepared to encounter those difficult topics on the bar exam and in practice.”

The Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law is located in Knoxville’s Historic Old City Hall Building. LMU Law is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of lawyers to provide sound legal service in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond.