Class of 2020 Student Awards announced by the Vanderbilt Bar Association

May 1, 2020

The Vanderbilt Bar Association has honored five 2020 graduates and three student organizations for their outstanding contributions to Vanderbilt Law School as students.

Elizabeth Holden received the Chris Lantz Award, presented each year to the graduating student “who demonstrates a dedication to developing a sense of community among his or her classmates with a strong capacity for leadership and commitment to his or her legal studies.” The award was endowed by the Class of 2011 to honor the memory of their friend, classmate and former Vanderbilt Bar Association President Chris Lantz. Holden served as editor-in-chief of the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review, Notes editor of the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and was a winner of the 2019 Bass Berry & Sims Moot Court Competition with her partner, Peter Cornick. She will serve as a law clerk for Judge Emily Coody Marks of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery after graduation.

Holden was president of the Women Law Students’ Association and also received the National Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Law Student Award, which recognizes the student who contributes to the advancement of women in society; promotes issues and concerns of women in the legal profession; exhibits motivation, tenacity and enthusiasm; demonstrates academic achievement; and earns the respect of Vanderbilt’s women faculty and students. The award includes membership in the NAWL.

Wesley Gonzales received the Damali K. Booker Award, presented annually to the graduating student “who has a keen dedication to legal activism and a demonstrated commitment to confronting social issues facing both Vanderbilt Law School and the greater Nashville community.” Gonzales received the Dean’s Leadership Award, served as president of OUTLaw for two years, and was vice president of the law school’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council, a mentor in the Co-Counsel program, secretary of the Intellectual Property Society and social chair of the Black Law Students’ Association. He will serve as a law clerk to Judge John A. Houston of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego.

Amber Banks received the Philip G. Davidson Award, presented to the graduate “chosen by the Vanderbilt Bar Association Board of Governors, who is dedicated to the law and its problem-solving role in society, and who provides exemplary leadership in service to the Law School and the greater community.” Banks was a Garrison Social Justice Scholar and served as executive editor of the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, president of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, vice president of the Law Students for Social Justice and secretary of the American Constitution Society.

Two graduates, Joey Blake and Kristine Knowles, were honored with the Jordan A. Quick Award, given to the graduates “judged to have made the greatest contribution to the quality of life at the law school through their leadership with the Vanderbilt Bar Association.”

Blake was president of the Vanderbilt Bar Association for 2019-20. He served as development editor for the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, was honored as a Diversity Scholar by Haynes & Boone and as Black HIstory Month co-chair of the Black Law Students Association. He received the Tom H. Proctor Jr. Scholarship. He plans to join Winston & Strawn in Houston as an associate.

Knowles was a Dean’s Scholar and served as the Vanderbilt Bar Association wellness chairman. She worked in the offices of the Nashville District Attorney and in the Fort Myers, Florida, Office of the State Attorney during her law school summers. She plans to join the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney after graduation.

Three student organizationwere also honored for outstanding contributions: The Black Law Students Association for community service, the Women Law Students’ Association for academic programming, and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council for overall excellence.

“I appreciate the exceptional contributions to the law school these students have made as leaders and role models and congratulate them for the recognition they have deservedly received,” said Chris Guthrie, Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law.


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