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Class of 1971

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Class Notes are posted in the order they are received, with the newest posts on top.

Do you have news you would like to share or just want to let everyone know what you are up to these days? Submit your class note online, email Class Notes or call 615-322-2606.

John Richardson White of Lynchburg died November 24, 2020 at the age of 75. Read his obituary here. Posted 2.1.21

Robert E. Brizendine, retired United States Judge, died November 18, 2020. Read his obituary here. Posted 2.1.21

Bob King has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Department’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education.  Read more:  Posted 7.22.19

Bob King has been nominated to be assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education.  Read more  Posted 08.22.18

Bob King will retire June 10 as president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the state’s coordinating agency for postsecondary education and adult education. Bob was named president of the Council in January 2009. Since coming to the post, he has gained national recognition for building stronger relationships with K-12 education and for focusing campus attention on improvements for student success. He also led the development and implementation of Kentucky's first performance funding model. Posted 3.27.18

Mitchell Owen Sawyer of Edinburg, Texas, died April 22. He was 75. Mitchell was on the wrestling team at Northwestern University and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a pilot during the Vietnam War. After earning his law degree at Vanderbilt, he practiced law at Kelley Looney Alexander & Sawyer. He also taught in the Kinesiology Department at the University of Texas, Rio Grande. He was an avid marathon runner and passionate gardener famous for his roses. He is survived by his wife, Felice, and two daughters. Posted 5.18.17

Richard H. King of Nashville died February 22. He was 74. Richard graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in 1961 and from Duke University in 1965. After graduating from Duke he was commissioned Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve and commenced a three year tour aboard the U.S.S. CHEVALIER DD-805, a WWII vintage destroyer used effectively during the Vietnam War for both naval gunfire support and as escort for the carriers engaged in the air war over North Vietnam. In 1968 Richard entered into Vanderbilt and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in1971. He practiced law in Nashville for decades towards the end of which he specialized in real estate development and health facilities law. He then ceased active law practice to become engaged in the full time development of ambulatory surgery centers in both Nashville and Jackson Tennessee. After retiring in 2006, he became the most prolific contributing author to an anthology of naval destroyer experiences entitled "Scurvy Dogs, Green Water and Gunsmoke", Oak Tree Press, 2008. Posted 3.22.17

David J. Tarpley was included on the 2015 “Best of the Bar” awards list by the Nashville Business Journal. David is the lead attorney for housing and consumer law with the Nashville, Tennessee office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. Posted 5.15.15

Michel G. Kaplan (BA '68) was included on the 2015 “Best of the Bar” awards list by the Nashville Business Journal. Mike is a member with Sherrard & Roe in Nashville, Tennessee where he practices in the areas of taxation, estate planning and tax exempt organizations. Posted 5.15.15

Michael J. Philbin died April 24. He was 69. After earning his JD from Vanderbilt Law School, Mike practiced with Taylor, Philbin, Pigue, Marchetti & Bennett and its predecessors from 1971 to 1998. From 1998 until his death, Mike was in the solo practice of law as Michael J. Philbin, P.C., and he was owner and president of Lawyer’s Escrow Service, Inc. in the Green Hills area of Nashville, Tennessee. He is survived by his wife and daughter. Posted 5.15.15

Kent H. McMahanKent H. McMahan died September 29 at the age of 68. Kent began his legal career as an attorney for the U.S. Air Force before starting his private practice at Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston, Texas. Kent served as a chair of the real estate, probate, and trust section for the State Bar of Texas and was a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Council. Kent is survived by his 4 children. Posted 10.17.14



Curtis R. Welling has joined Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business as a senior fellow in its Center for Global Business and Government and the Center for Business and Society. Curt assumed the joint appointment on January 1, following his 11-year tenure as president and CEO of AmeriCares. As a senior fellow, Curt's responsibilities include curriculum development, teaching, facilitating distinguished visitors, coordinating projects for second-year MBA fellows, program development, and alumni outreach. He will also be developing new courses in the MBA elective curriculum. Curt's center appointments will further expand opportunities for Tuck MBA students and alumni interested in areas such as global health, disaster relief, humanitarian leadership, and nonprofit strategy and governance. Posted 1.28.14

Patrick ColemanPatrick Coleman, a labor and employment law attorney in the Jacksonville, Florida, office of Gray Robinson has been elected board chairman of Seniors on a Mission, an organization serving senior citizens in Jacksonville, Florida. Posted 9.6.13




Richard H. Sinkfield
, a partner at Rogers & Hardin and Vanderbilt Board of Trust Member, has been named by Todays Best Lawyers of America as a "2014 Atlanta Lawyer of the Year" in the litigation – mergers & acquisition specialty. Richard is also listed in six additional specialties: bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, banking & finance litigation, ERISA litigation, securities litigation, and mediation. Posted 8.22.13

Edward F. Gordon (BA'68), of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, died May 17. He graduated from Giles County High School before obtaining both his undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt. A lifelong learner and avid reader, he was graceful with his words and eloquent in his writing. Edward is survived by three children and four grandchildren. Posted 6.11.13

Benjamin Matthews III (BE'49), age 87, of Naples, Florida, died December 31, 2012. Ben served his country in the U.S. Army and was a member of the 100th Infantry Division, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He served in D Company, 399th Infantry Regiment and received the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and European Theater Medal with two battle stars, Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal and Good Combat Medal. In May 2010, he received the distinguished American Society of the French Legion of Honor medal. Upon discharge from the Army, Ben met and married Barbara Lowe (BA'47) and completed his engineering degree at Vanderbilt, graduating cum laude in 1949. In 1968, he returned to Vanderbilt Law School and earned his law degree. He practiced law in Nashville until moving to Naples in 1976, where he retired in 1987. He won the Naples City Tennis Championship in both men's doubles and mixed doubles. He won the club championship at the Hole-in-the-Wall Golf Club. Ben was an avid bridge player and member of the Naples Athletic Club. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Barbara; four children, Lowell Matthews Adams (BA'71), Benjamin Matthews IV, Lucy Matthews Buchanan (BS'80), and Luke Robert Matthews; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Posted 1.5.13

Paul Geier, who is Assistant General Counsel for Litigation at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., was awarded the Presidential Rank Award of the Distinguished Executive in 2011. Paul was recently honored at a formal banquet at the Department of State as one of 53 senior government executives to receive the award. He was recognized for leading a team of lawyers that settled seven years of litigation and two adverse court decisions that had prevented the Federal Aviation Administration from retaining $76 million in overflight fees collected from foreign air carriers. The prestigious Distinguished Executive Awards are conferred annually by the President. Posted 8.20.12

Patrick D. Coleman,a partner with the Jacksonville office of GrayRobinson, has been elected to the Salvation Army's advisory board. In this role, Pat will advise the organization on matters of community priorities and needs along with other influential business people within the board. Posted 5.24.12

Steven Guise joined the Los Angeles office of Katten Muchin & Rosenmanas part of the firm's trusts & estates practice. Previously, Steven was a partner with Munger Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles for more than twenty-five years. His practice focuses on personal tax planning and charitable giving. Posted 7.15.11

Philip Lyle Brook died November 12, 2008, in Jackson, Mississippi, after a long illness. Phillip graduated with honors from Vanderbilt University, where he earned a B.S. in chemistry. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity and the fencing team. After earning his law degree with honors at Vanderbilt, he worked several years as a patent lawyer for Proctor & Gamble Corporation in Cincinnati, Ohio, before moving to Memphis, where he was a partner with the former law firms of Rosenfield Borod Fones & Bogatin and Williams Benham Darden McNeil & Brooke. He later served as General Counsel for W. R. Grace Companies' Chemical Division in Memphis. In addition to being an accomplished pianist, he was fond of sailing, chess, and reading a good book. Phillip is survived by two daughters.

James C. Holman, a partner at Whiteford Taylor & Preston in Baltimore, died of congestive heart failure on June 16, 2008. He was 61 and had been at Whiteford for nearly 30 years. A former president of the board of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, Holman was active in the organization until his death. After graduating from Vanderbilt, Jim earned an LL.M. from George Washington University in 1974. He served in the Army at Fort Holabird, clerked in the Tax Court in Washington, D.C., and practiced law in Kansas City, Missouri, before joining Whiteford in 1979. He is survived by his sister, Eleanor Sigmon, and her family. 

John LeCornu died August 7, 2007, of cancer. John was a retired Marine colonel who had lived in Annapolis since 1980. He had served as an assistant state's attorney for Anne Arundel County from 1988 to 2004 and had a private law practice in Annapolis. He graduated in 1961 from the Naval Academy and was commissioned into the Marine Corps infantry. During his 27-year career in the Marines, John served in Vietnam and had two tours at the Naval Academy as a company and battalion officer. He earned his law degree from Vanderbilt while in the service and was in the Judge Advocate General Corps for 16 years before retiring from the military in 1988. He is survived by his wife, Linda.