Christopher J. Honenberger, an alumnus of William & Mary Law School and the College of William & Mary, received the Law School's Citizen Lawyer Award during commencement exercises Sunday, May 20. The award was presented by Law School Dean Taylor Reveley. The recipient is chosen by the Law School Association, and is awarded annually to a graduate or friend of the Law School who stands squarely in the Jeffersonian tradition of outstanding citizenship and leadership.
"Chris Honenberger is an enormous credit to his alma mater," said Reveley. "He has been a force in the legal and business life of Virginia for more than 30 years, practicing law with great effectiveness in the commercial, corporate, and real estate areas and serving for seven years as president and CEO of Second Bank & Trust, one of the state's oldest and most respected community banks. Throughout his career, Chris has placed the welfare of his community at the top of his agenda, and has served as chairman of the Germanna Community College Board, president of Orange County's Economic Development Corporation, and president of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce."
"Understanding the history of William & Mary Law School, its extraordinary foundation, and the leadership which has perpetuated learning at the Law School for more than 200 years, and further understanding how important good citizenship is to the legal profession and to society as a whole, I am humbled that the Law School has honored me with this award," Honenberger said. "My alumni efforts started in 1986, serving on the Law School Association Board with Dean William B. Spong, Jr., and this work has been my most rewarding public service . . . truly a blessing. My continued association with William & Mary Law School has been an extremely important part of my life."
Honenberger earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the College of William & Mary in 1974 and graduated from William & Mary Law School three years later. He has, according to Reveley, "remained a vibrant part of the life of William & Mary ever since." Honenberger is a past president of the Order of the White Jacket, the Law School Association, and the Marshall-Wythe School of Law Foundation. The College's Alumni Association honored Honenberger's numerous contributions with its 2001 Alumni Service Award.
In February 2007, the city of Culpeper, Virginia, passed a resolution honoring Honenberger for his leadership in promoting community service, and designated Feb. 13, 2007 as "Chris Honenberger Day." One of the founders and the major promoter of Second Bank & Trust's 100 Club, which is comprised of bank employees who volunteer a minimum of 100 hours per year to community service, Honenberger oversaw a program that documented more than 70,000 hours of community service between June 2000 and February 2007. In the last full year of the program, more than 14,000 hours of community service were documented with 80 percent of employees serving at some level.
"Service became a part of our business culture," Honenberger said, "and it was woven into the company vernacular. E-mails circulated regularly inviting people to join teams for WalkAmerica, United Way and Relay for Life. Service included local parades, benefits for local fire departments, 9/11 support groups, and a host of other causes. E-mails touted ‘get your 100 Club hours.' Therefore, the Culpeper town council recognized what the bank had done for the fabric of the community, and I share that honor with my former business associates."
Reveley noted that the concept of the citizen lawyer has its roots in 1779, in the original intent of Thomas Jefferson for the law school he created at William & Mary. "Jefferson and the man he recruited to get the school going, George Wythe, wanted students trained to be not simply skilled practitioners of law but also leaders for the common good of their communities, states and nation," he explained. Among the school's first students was John Marshall, later the great Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a paradigm of the citizen lawyer.
"Chris engages his fellow humans with a genuine interest in them and infectious good humor," Reveley said. "This has made him unusually effective at getting good things done."