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Class of 1976

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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.

Stephen Kenneth Rush passed away peacefully on July 22, 2021 after suffering complications from a fall at his home in Nashville, TN. Steve will be remembered as an intelligent, kind, loving husband, father, grandfather and friend.Steve loved current affairs, playing bridge, traveling, and his church groups. Read his full obituary here. Posted 7.30.21

Aleta A. Trauger  has been selected to receive the prestigious 2020 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Sixth Circuit. Since 1998, she has served as a U.S. district judge in the Middle District of Tennessee. Posted 1.16.21.

Jack Reale , Drew Eckl & Farnham partner,  has been chosen to serve as Champ Bailey's presenter when he's inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. Jack has served as Champ’s agent, attorney, and friend for the last 20 years. “I am honored that Champ has chosen me”, said Jack Reale.  The ceremony will be held in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, adjacent to the Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Posted 6.19.19

Matt Sweeneya Baker Donelson (Nashville) mediator/arbitrator has been appointed to the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the American Judicial System.  The Committee focuses on issues relating to the preservation and improvement of the judicial system, judicial independence and the preservation of fair and impartial courts, preservation of the American jury system, and methods of judicial selection and retention.  Posted 8.22.18

E. Berry Holt (BA’ 73), partner at Nashville’s Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, has been inducted into the Seton Society of Saint Thomas Health of Tennessee. The Seton Society recognizes and pays tribute to physicians, nurses, health care workers and community volunteers who demonstrate excellence in their professions and in their service to Saint Thomas Health and the greater Nashville community. Posted 5.22.18

Mary Jo Middlebrooks has been chosen as the recipient of the 2018 Sue Shelton White Award, presented by Jackson Area Business & Professional Women and The Jackson Sun.  The award was announced at the Sterling Awards on April 10, 2018, in Jackson, Tennessee.   This is an annual award to an outstanding attorney in West Tennessee who is a community activist working to create or change legislation to improve the lives of women and children in the state of Tennessee. Mary Jo is an attorney at Middlebrooks & Gray in Jackson, Tennessee. Posted 5.9.18

William Robert Nixon Jr., Bob (BA ’73), died March 29. He was 67.Bob earned both his undergraduate and law degree from Vanderbilt. He practiced commercial and bankruptcy law in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the highest rating in the Martindale-Hubbell peer review. Bob married his wife, Pamela, in 1987 and moved to Anacortes, Washington in 2001. He is survived by his wife. Posted 4.24.18

Stewart C. Walz, longtime Utah federal prosecutor has retired after decades of fighting frauds and scams. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of South Dakota and a law degree from Vanderbilt University, Stewart started work in 1976 as chief counsel for the IRS Salt Lake City office. He then got the job as an assistant U.S. attorney. He is retiring after 42 years in government service, including a four-year stint as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service. Posted 3.27.18

Patrick McHale (BA ’73) of Milan, Tennessee, died Nov. 20. A cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt and VLS, Pat launched an impressive career that spanned four decades as an accomplished trial attorney, serving in private practice in Murfreesboro, as managing attorney for the insurance USF&G, and the Tennessee Department of Labor. For the past 10 years, Pat worked on the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct as disciplinary counsel. He taught Conflicts of Law at the Nashville School of Law, where he was recognized as a student advocate and professional mentor. He is survived by a son and two granddaughters. Posted 12.15.17  

Dewitt Malone Shy, Jr. died April 28.A native of Memphis he attended Stanford University and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia before attending Vanderbilt. He was partner at Burch, Porter and Johnson Law Firm where he was very successful at litigation for many of the United States’ large corporations. He is survived by his two children, Sydney Miller Shy and Dewitt Malone Shy III. Posted 5.18.17

John N. Villios, of Norfolk and Brooklyn, New York died November 5. He was 65 years old. John attended Hamilton College before earning his law degree from Vanderbilt. He recently ended his long career as the New Jersey District Counsel of Small Business Administration. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Kriegel, daughter, Kate, and grandson. Posted 11.28.16

Robert Tuke has joined Bridges board of directors as vice chair. Bridges is Nashville-based non-profit that supports the deaf and hard of hearing. Posted 11.28.16

Wanda S. McNeil, died May 26, 2016 in Nashville. She was 65. Wanda was born in Granite City, Illinois and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1971 before earning her J.D. from Vanderbilt in 1976. She first married in Nashville, in 1972 and practiced law with the firm of Shearman & Sterling in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. In 1991, she returned with her children to Huntsville, Alabama where she continued her successful career as a corporate attorney, serving as a leading partner of Sirote & Permutt. Throughout her career and into retirement, she served on numerous boards and mentored young women and undocumented scholars while working with a diversity of organizations. In 2007, Wanda married Jerome Branum of Nashville. She is survived by her husband, son, daughter and grandson. Posted 7.25.16

Magaret Huff won the ninth annual Grayfred Gray Public Service in Mediation Award for her pioneering and lasting contributions to the field of mediation. A Nashville-based mediator, Huff spearheaded formation of the Coalition for Mediation Awareness in Tennessee and is a Founding Member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Mediators. Posted 5.3.16

Craig V. Gabbert Jr.  was included on the 2015 “Best of the Bar” awards list by the Nashville Business Journal. Craig is a shareholder with Harwell Howard Hyne Gabbert Manner in Nashville, Tennessee where he focuses his practice in commercial bankruptcy & reorganization, litigation, and dispute resolution. Posted 5.15.15

Susan Emery McGannon, city attorney for Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has announced plans for retirement, effective November 1, 2015. She was honored for her service as Murfreesboro City Attorney in an article in the Murfreesboro Post. Susan assumed her current position in 2001 after serving as assistant city attorney beginning in 1992. Posted 5.15.15

John D. Kitch has joined the law firm of Cornelius & Collins in an of counsel capacity. Prior to joining the firm, John was a solo practitioner for more than 38 years. His practice focuses on the representation of public school systems, civil trial and appellate practice in state and federal courts, and probate matters. He is a past president of the Nashville Bar Association. Posted 10.31.14

Stewart C. Walz was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers on October 26 at the organization's 2013 meeting. Stew is an assistant U.S. attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a national known expert in evidence. Posted 1.29.14

Frank A. Lightmas Jr. will join the board of directors for Sibling Group Holdings. Frank was a founder of Newco4education, which was acquired by Sibling in 2010. Frank is a partner with Lightmas & Delk in Atlanta, Georgia. Posted 1.13.14

Francis Lacey, who taught International and Contract Law at Vanderbilt from 1975-78, passed away on December 8. In 1978, Frank took a position with Phillips Petroleum as an international and domestic contracts attorney where he worked until his retirement. He is survived by his wife, Susan, and their four children. Posted 12.16.13

Eric Roy Finkelman was named Avon Corporation's director of compliance for the Asia Pacific Region. Eric has served as an ethics and compliance consultant with Avon since February 2013. Prior to joining Avon, Eric was vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Sun Chemical Corporation. Eric and his wife, Lisa Kazmer, have relocated to Hong Kong and are looking forward to traveling through Asia. Posted 11.7.13

Marnie HuffMarnie Huff, a Nashville mediator, has been appointed by the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution to a national ethics position. She will serve as section representative on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility/Section Officers Conference Joint Committee on Ethics and Professionalism. A Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Listed General Civil Mediator, Marnie owns and operates Margaret Huff Mediation, offering arbitration, mediation and workplace conflict management training services in Tennessee. In additional to her new leadership position with the ABA, Marnie is an elected member of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Council and co-chair of the Section's Advanced Mediation and Advocacy Skills Institute, to be held in Nashville November 21-22. Posted 9.23.13


Lawrence J. McNamara was appointed by Governor Rick Perry to the Appraisal Management Companies Advisory Committee. Pursuant to House Bill 1146 of the 82nd Legislature, the committee will advise the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board and make recommendations on matters related to the regulation of appraisal management companies. Larry is an attorney in private practice in Dallas. He is appointed to a term to expire January 31, 2014. Posted 2.11.13

James Randolph Smith has joined Belmont University's Board of Trustees. Randy, a former Belmont Trustee from 1982-87, is an entertainment industry attorney. Randy is a member of the American Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, The Nashville Bar Association, and the Copyright Society of the USA. Posted 2.6.13

Judge Aleta Trauger of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has been named Trial Judge of the Year for 2012 by the Tennessee Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, a national association dedicated to preserving the constitutional guarantee of a civil jury trial. Judge Trauger has served on the U. S. District Court in Nashville since 1998. Her district has for several years ranked among the top 10 federal courts in the nation for number of trials completed per judgeship. Posted 10.8.12

Kim E. Presbrey died Saturday as a result of injuries suffered in a plane crash on April 2. Kim was a native of Aurora, Illinois. An expert in workers' compensation and employment law, he was a past president of the lllinois Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, the Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, the American Trial Lawyers, the Workplace Injury Litigation Group and the Kane County Bar Association, where he founded the Workers' Compensation Section. He wrote many articles and taught seminars on workers' compensation law. He was an advocate for injured workers and continuously lobbied the Illinois State Legislature on their behalf. He was a co-author of the Lexis-Nexis Illinois Workers' Compensation Book.

Read Kim's obituary on the Illinois Bar Association site.

An experienced pilot and an avid hunter and fisherman, Kim traveled to many states and countries in pursuit of those activities.

He earned his undergraduate degree at Northwestern Illinois University in 1973 before earning his law degree at Vanderbilt, after which he returned to his hometown of Aurora and entered his father's law practice. After his father's retirement, he became the principal owner of Presbrey and Associates.

Active in his community, Kim spent many years working with the Illinois Conservation Foundation, among numerous other activities. For 10 years, he was president of Illinois Futures Inc. which provided scholarships for children of disable workers. He was also founder and chairman of Doctors Direct Inc., a medical malpractice insurance company.

Kim is survived by his wife, Colleen Drury Presbrey, and their two sons. A celebration of Kim's life will be held at a future date. Posted 6.1.12

Patrick J. McHale (BA'73) has joined the Nashville School of Law faculty as instructor of conflicts of law. Pat has served as an adjunct teacher at NSL since 2009 and brings more than 35 years of legal experience to his position. Posted 4.17.12

Matthew J. Sweeney III has been elected by the American Bar Association Board of Governors to the National Judicial College Board of Trustees. He will represent the ABA Board of Governors on the board through June 2013. Matt is a shareholder at Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz. Posted 04.23.12

John D. Kitch has been elected president of the Nashville Bar Association for 2012. He is the first solo practitioner to assume this role in more than 50 years. Kitch will officially begin his term on January 1, 2012. He was elected to his second term on the NBA Board of Directors in 2008 and, in 2010, was selected by his fellow board members to serve as President-Elect during 2011 and President in 2012. Kitch previously served on the Board from 1995-1997 and was First Vice-President in 1997. Posted 01.10.12

John Tate has been named a partner in the Los Angeles office of Davis Wright Tremaine. Tate is a senior commercial trial lawyer with over 35 years of experience who practices extensively in the health care and financial services industries, as well as real estate and insolvency-related litigation. He represents clients on a wide range of claims, including commercial torts, unfair competition, breach of fiduciary duties and creditor's rights, as well as issues specific to the health care and real estate finance industries. Posted 1.10.12

Bob TukeBob Tuke
, partner in Trauger & Tuke, was one of five Nashville businessmen honored in June by the American Diabetes Association as Father of the Year.The event was held at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel Nashville and benefited the American Diabetes Association. Bob continues to teach on Vanderbilt's adjunct law faculty. Posted 10.17.11


Mary Jo Middlebrooks was awarded the 2011 Ernie H. Gray Paralegal Utilization Award recipient from the West Tennessee Chapter of the Tennessee Paralegal Association, an award named for her late husband. Mary Jo was also awarded with one of the four Pro Bono Awards, both were received at the 2011 Law Day Celebration in Jackson, Tennessee. Posted 5.10.11

Rush DozierRush Dozier Jr., a Madisonville native who served as city editor of the Herald-Leader and chief counsel to Gov. John Y. Brown, died on Dec. 26, 2010, in Sacramento, Calif. He was 60 years old. After earning his J.D., Rush returned to Kentucky to work in journalism. He served as an aide, and later chief counsel to Brown, who later appointed him to the Public Service Commission. In his later life, Rush became an author of such books as Fear Itself: The Origin and Nature of the Powerful Emotion that Shapes Our Lives and Our World, and Why We Hate: Understanding, Curbing, and Eliminating Hate in Ourselves and Our World. He is survived by his wife, Patricia McHugh Dozier; his parents; and a brother. Posted 1.28.11


Judge Rita Stotts died January 2, 2009, in Memphis, Tennessee, losing a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 55. A Memphis native, Judge Stotts was appointed to the bench on May 23, 2000. She served in several legal capacities, including assistant divorce referee, an assistant county attorney and as an assistant professor of law at Memphis State University. Judge Stotts was the daughter of the late Carl Stotts, a firefighter who sued the city in 1977 alleging that he and other minority firefighters were unfairly denied promotions. The suit eventually became a class action, representing all black firefighters. The city settled in 1980, signing a consent decree pledging to improve the hiring and promotion of minorities.