Remarks of Kevin O'Neill '99 at the Presentation of the Citizen Lawyer Award to Mark Dray '68| May 21, 2010
On behalf of my fellow alumni, let me offer our congratulations to each graduate here today and welcome you to the Alumni Association. The achievements of the Class of 2010 are well-known amongst the alumni. We watched with pride as your class were leaders in forming a new business law journal, managing a vibrant election law society, operating one of the nation's best BLSA chapters, publishing outstanding issues of various law reviews and journals, fielding excellent moot court teams, and investing in our nation's future in a variety of volunteer contexts from the veteran's benefit clinic to the bone marrow drive. You've already demonstrated a desire to give back to the school via the outstanding results annouced by your 3L class gift committee. The bar exam looms and then the transition to employment but when life settles down for you, the Alumni Association invites you to remain engaged by channeling your talent, enthusiasm and love for this great institution into a meaningful contribution to the experience we offer to future generations of students.
The Alumni Association presents the Citizen Lawyer Award at graduation because today marks an important transition in your career. Today's honors are given to students in recognition of individual achievements made largely for your own benefit. But as lawyers the success of your career will almost certainly be marked by the impact you make in helping other people achieve their goals and dreams. The big cases you win, the convictions you earn from the jury, the deals you negotiate, the problems you solve everyday will only be celebrated to the extent they serve the interests of your clients, your community and our nation. William & Mary has an unparalleled tradition of service that tracks the history of our nation. One of the school's initial students was John Marshall who would become the longest-serving Chief Justice in Supreme Court history and certainly a man who fit the definition of a citizen lawyer. Today, we are graced with the presence of the College's Chancellor who is the most important woman in our nation's history precisely because she had a political and judicial career devoted to ensuring the rule of law serves all Americans. She's followed a trailblazing career on the Supreme Court with a non-stop dynamic campaign for teaching young Americans about civics and inspiring them to become active participants in our democracy. She may be a Stanford graduate but she's a Marshall-Wythe alum at heart.
With the ideals of Marshall and O'Connor in mind, the Citizen-Lawyer Award is designed to present you on your graduation with an exemplar of the best that a William & Mary lawyer can be in the hopes that you are inspired to remain focused on using your professional skills to serve others.
Our recipient this year is Mark Dray, a tax partner at the Richmond powerhouse firm Hunton and Williams. Mark is a man whose professional achievements and service to our law school have long echoed through the halls of Marshall-Wythe. Mark is a 1965 graduate of Mount Union College, a school that has won more NCAA football championships than any other and his partners thought it important for me to note he clearly has the physique of someone who graduated from a football factory. Mark came to Williamsburg in the fall of 1965 and was a leader in his student days, serving as Managing Editor of the Law Review before graduating in 1968 and adding a Masters in Tax law in 1969. After receiving his master's degree, Mark spent a year working with Price Waterhouse in Washington, D.C., before landing a position as an associate with Hunton & Williams. Hunton & Williams is a firm that has a strong current-day connection to this law school, but it is believed Mark is one of the first if not the first Marshall-Wythe graduate to make partner there. In his time there, Mark's been a fierce advocate for making sure the firm competes for the best and brightest Marshall-Wythe graduates. Today, there are more than 40 of our alumni working as partners or associates across the globe for Hunton and Williams. Professionally, Mark works in the art of tax law and early in 1974 he recognized the challenges that were presented when Congress passed the complex law know as ERISA. He immersed himself in the details of ERISA and today is generally recognized as one of the deans of that bar nationwide with expertise ranging from health savings accounts to executive compensation issues. He has served as Chairman of the ABA Employee Benefits Taxation Committee and the ABA's Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, as well as leadership positions in a number of other tax law organizations at the state, regional and national level. His expertise is well known as Mark has been listed in every edition of The Best Lawyers in America since 1989.
Mark's service to William & Mary is nothing short of extraordinary and he is closely associated with two of the transformative deans of this school over the past quarter century - William Spong and Taylor Reveley - and I am sure he will be continue to be a strong ally of Dean Douglas's efforts to push the school forward. In the early 1980s, during Dean Spong's time, Mark was a critical player in the development of the law school's Foundation, helping to create the organization that serves the school's most important funding needs today. Mark served on the Foundation board for five years, including a two-year term as President. As someone who graduated from the school at a time when it had no permanent physical home on campus, Mark's vision of the Foundation made it the key player in multiple campaigns to upgrade the facilities this class has enjoyed the last three years. Mark served as Chairman of his class's 30th and 35th reunions, helping raise major funding aimed at improving the endowment and specific programs of the Law School. When his partner and friend Taylor Reveley became Dean of this law school in 1998, Mark spearheaded a campaign to raise capital for the Hunton & Williams Dean's Discretionary Fund, giving Taylor a powerful tool to pour funding into projects that jump-started his vision for a decade of changes that improved every aspect of the school. Mark also has shared his tax expertise over the years at a range of CLEs, tax conferences and special events held at the Law School.
Mark and his family are pillars of the Richmond community. One of his partners expressed admiration at Mark's focus on serving up-and-coming community organizations, in particular his long time affiliation with the Firehouse Theater Company and a host of other service opportunities that helped various organizations but didn't gain lots of public recognition.
When putting together these remarks, I spoke with a number of Mark's partners and leaders of the Law School. President Reveley, Dean Douglas and Sally Kellam all gave me the same message in different conversations - this law school would not be where it is today without the contributions of time, talent and treasure Mark Dray has provided in the last 40 years, especially his early guidance of the Foundation. Professionally, his colleagues at Hunton Williams made it clear Mark is a national expert in one of the more difficult areas of the law and the type of partner whose leadership has helped turn a Richmond-based firm one of the world's best law firms. But I leave you with the sentiments of retired tax professor and unofficial Marshall-Wythe historian John Donaldson who, when I asked about Mark Dray, put his hand on my shoulder and said simply, "When it comes to this law school, Mark Dray is the man." Please join me in recognizing the 2010 recipient of the Citizen-Lawyer Award, Mark Dray.