On Thursday, Oct. 30, William & Mary’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) welcomed The Honorable Will A. Gunn, former General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to the Law School for the inaugural lecture in the William & Mary Black Law Students Association L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series. Attendees included College President W. Taylor Reveley and Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas.
Gunn, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Judge Advocate General Officer, spoke about leadership lessons drawn from his military service and his assignment as the first-ever Chief Defense Counsel in the Department of Defense's Office of Military Commissions, where he led the team of lawyers who represented the Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Gunn also spoke about his leadership approach more recently as General Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He told students that effective management in challenging situations required “Cauldron Leadership.” Gunn noted that Cauldron Leadership requires confronting and overcoming “situations of distress or unrest felt to resemble a boiling kettle.”
Gunn described the traits of effective cauldron leaders, which includes dedication to virtue, conviction, and courage, the ability to listen to ideas from others, share the credit for success, and to take ownership for one’s mistakes. He also emphasized the importance of “probing the possible” to seek out creative solutions to problems, and the role of preparedness in leadership, because the need for cauldron leadership often arises unexpectedly. Finally, Gunn charged students to “Dare to Lead” in their personal lives and professional careers.
Prior to Gunn’s lecture, Gunn joined President Reveley, several faculty members, and students from BLSA and The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic for a lunch during which he described his career path and answered student questions about undertaking the role of citizen lawyer in their own careers. Following the lunch and prior to the start of Gunn’s lecture, BLSA President Matthew Kemelek J.D. ’16 and BLSA Committee Chair Xavier Jefferson J.D. ’15 presented Gunn with a proclamation from BLSA, recognizing Gunn’s commitment to public service and embodiment of the ideal of the citizen lawyer.
Following the lecture, BLSA Vice President India Richardson J.D. ’16 and Patricia E. Roberts, Director of the Puller Clinic at the Law School, presented Gunn with tokens of appreciation for his service to military veterans, the Nation, the Commonwealth, and his local community. One of these gifts was the Puller Clinic Challenge Coin, presented to those demonstrating the ideals of selfless service, professionalism and heroism in their commitment to veterans.
BLSA hosts its second lecture in the L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series on Nov. 13 in collaboration with the George Wythe Society of Citizen Lawyers. Professor Tillman Breckenridge, Adjunct Professor of Law & Managing Attorney of William & Mary's Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, will speak about perseverance and active citizenship from the perspective of a citizen lawyer. The event begins at 12:50 p.m. in Room 127 of the Law School.
The William & Mary Black Law Students Association L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series features notable and respected individuals who have served in governmental, public policy, and legal capacities and who have made significant contributions to the Nation, the Commonwealth, and/or the local community. Selected speakers embody the ideals of public and community service Governor Wilder has represented throughout his distinguished career as a public servant.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.