LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law honored Class of 2015 graduates at a hooding ceremony May 16. During the ceremony, nine students received awards for distinguishing themselves in scholarship, leadership and service to the law school and the community.
- Zak Beasley, Kansas City, Kansas, Class of 1949 Leadership Award
- Paige Blevins, Great Bend, Robert F. Bennett Award
- Jordan Carter, Topeka, Samuel Mellinger Scholarship, Leadership and Service Award
- Tamara Combs, Salvador, Brazil, Janean Meigs Memorial Award
- Jason Harmon, Orem, Utah, Justice Lloyd Kagey Leadership Award
- Jacob McMillian, Kansas City, Kansas, Walter Hiersteiner Outstanding Service Award
- Paul Mose, Emporia, Janean Meigs Memorial Award
- Hillary Nicholas, Atchison, Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement
- Abby West, Overland Park, Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement
Banner carrier Genevieve Hursh, Shawnee, was also recognized during the ceremony. The banner carrier is a student who has excelled academically and who carries the highest grade-point average by the end of the fall semester in the third year of law study.
The award winners were part of a class composed of 136 recipients of the Juris Doctor, four Doctor of Juridical Science graduates and two Master of Laws in Elder Law graduates.
Funds for the awards are managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
Student award recipients are listed below by hometown.
Hillary Nicholas received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement, which goes to the graduating student(s) selected by the faculty as having made the most significant contribution toward overall legal scholarship. Nicholas served as editor-in-chief of the Kansas Law Review during her third year of law school. Even with all of the responsibilities accompanying this leadership role, she maintained an outstanding class rank. She represented state and federal prisoners in appellate and post-conviction litigation through the Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies. She also served as treasurer of the Public Interest Law Society and, in her first year, was a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board. As a Rice Scholar, Nicholas attended KU Law on a full-tuition scholarship. She is the daughter of Cathy Coronado and George Nicholas and a graduate of Atchison High School and New York University.
From Great Bend
Paige Blevins received the Robert F. Bennett Award, recognizing a graduate whose undergraduate degree is from a Kansas university or college and who has demonstrated leadership qualities through public service. As symposium editor for the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy, Blevins planned and executed a highly successful symposium on access to justice, which featured, among other expert speakers, a judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. She mentored incoming students as a Dean’s Fellow for two years, including as head Dean’s Fellow during her third year of law school. Blevins served as events coordinator for the Public Interest Law Society, planning the primary fundraiser to offer stipends to law students working in non-paying, public interest jobs. She also assisted low-income patients in need of legal assistance through the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic. Her paper highlighting a cutting-edge Medicare topic was published in the Law Journal, and she excelled as a member of KU Law’s Moot Court Council, finishing third in the in-house competition. Blevins is the daughter of Ralph and Laura Blevins and a graduate of Great Bend High School and KU.
Abby West received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement, which goes to the graduating student(s) selected by the faculty as having made the most significant contribution toward overall legal scholarship. West was one of the top students in her class by grade-point average and earned the highest grade in several of her law school courses. She selected and edited articles for the Kansas Law Review in her role as articles editor. Her own comment, “A Meaningful Opportunity to Comply,” which addressed the use of discovery in China during litigation in the United States, was selected for publication in volume 63 of the Law Review. West also wrote many briefs for KU’s Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies and participated in the Guardianship Assistance Program, helping Wichita residents apply for guardianships for adult children with disabilities. West is the daughter of Gretchen and James West and a graduate of Blue Valley North High School and KU.
Paul Mose received the Janean Meigs Memorial Award, given to students who have demonstrated a caring spirit in service to the students of the law school or the community at large. Mose served as a tutor for the KU Law Academic Resources Program. In accepting that role, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to give back, explaining that “he had been helped by so many people that he wanted to return the favor.” He also helped students in Professor Lou Mulligan’s jurisdiction class hone their oral argument abilities and tighten their brief-writing skills, as a teaching assistant. He served as a Dean’s Fellow and a note and comment editor for the Kansas Law Review. Mose swept the awards in KU’s in-house moot court competition – winning both best brief and best oral advocate – and was known in moot court circles for showing up at 6 a.m. to help coach other teams. He also teaches an introduction to law course at Emporia State University as an adjunct instructor. Mose is the son of Susan Vargas and a graduate of Emporia High School and Emporia State University.
Jordan Carter received the Samuel Mellinger Scholarship, Leadership and Service Award, given to the graduate who has most distinguished him or herself in the combined areas of scholarship, leadership and service. Carter was among the very top students in her class and has maintained an outstanding grade-point average while serving as a student ambassador, a teaching assistant for lawyering skills and a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar in KU Law’s academic success program. She also served as a student member of the faculty Curricular Innovation Committee. Carter writes a guest blog for Ms. JD that discusses law and life, and she also authors blog entries for KU Law’s Office of Admissions. She served as executive note and comment editor for the Kansas Law Review, overseeing each of the scholarly pieces written by fellow law students. Carter also volunteered with Boys & Girls Club in Lawrence. She is the daughter of Vincent Carter and Lisa Hecht, and a graduate of Topeka High School and Washington University in St. Louis.
Zak Beasley received the Class of 1949 Leadership Award, given to the student who has contributed most significantly to the overall experience of students in Green Hall. Beasley led the Student Bar Association as class president during his first and second years of law school before taking on the role of SBA executive president his third year. With a nod to KU Law’s history, he revived back Fun Day, a year-end social event that brought together law students, faculty, staff and alumni. A 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Beasley founded the KU Military Law Society, served as a student ambassador and wrote articles for the online news blog the Kansas Law Free Press, all while earning a joint degree in law and journalism. He also taught 100-level courses to undergraduate students as a graduate teaching assistant in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications. Beasley is the son of Stephanie Sandelich and Mark Beasley, and a graduate of St. Pius X High School and KU.
Jake McMillian received the Walter Hiersteiner Outstanding Service Award, given to the graduate whose service to his or her fellow students demonstrates the greatest promise for contribution to the legal profession and society. McMillian served on Chancellor Gray-Little’s Sexual Assault Task Force, a group composed primarily of faculty, assigned to study sexual violence on the KU campus and propose methods to better handle and reduce such cases. As a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, he advised Dean Stephen Mazza on pressing law school issues. He served two years as an officer of OUTLaws & Allies, playing an instrumental role in planning the 2015 Diversity in Law Banquet and delivering moving remarks at the event about the importance of inclusivity to law schools and KU in particular. McMillian has promoted KU Law to current and prospective students as the diversity and outreach coordinator for KU Law’s Office of Admissions and in his role as a student ambassador. He has also written about diversity in the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association and The Federal Lawyer. McMillian is the son of Jan and Kay McMillian and a graduate of Bishop Ward High School and Ottawa University.
Jason Harmon received the Justice Lloyd Kagey Leadership Award, given to the graduate who has most distinguished him or herself through leadership in the law school. Harmon ranked among the top students in his class academically. He served on the Kansas Law Review, and his comment, “Procedural Misjoinder: The Quest for a Uniform Standard,” appeared in Volume 62, Issue 5 of the Review. He and teammate Paul Mose won KU’s in-house moot court competition during their second year of law school. Harmon served as a teaching assistant for lawyering skills and a Dean’s Fellow, advising and counseling first-year students. When the team on which he was competing at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition unexpectedly bowed out early, he immediately switched from participant to coach, selflessly and enthusiastically supporting and encouraging his fellow competitors as they advanced to the final phase of the competition. Harmon is the son of Phillip and Janet Harmon and a graduate of Timpanogos High School and Utah Valley University.
Tamara Combs received the Janean Meigs Memorial Award, given to students who have demonstrated a caring spirit in service to the students of the law school or the community at large. Combs was an officer in KU’s Black Law Students Association during her first year of law school. She later became a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar, helping first-year students improve their study habits and promoting their academic success. She worked extensively with international students who were writing dissertations, especially students for whom English was not their first language. Combs served as symposium editor for the Kansas Law Review, organizing experts from across the country to talk about issues of human migration and oppression. Combs is the daughter of Inalva Valadares Freitas and a graduate of Colegio Dois de Julho, Armstrong Atlantic State University and Clemson University.