Friday, August 8, 2014
My friend, Ken Dunham, begins his last semester teaching this week. He is retiring after a long, fruitful career first as an accountant, then a lawyer for decades, then reborn as a mediator and clinical law professor. I met Ken at Faulkner University Jones School of Law where I started teaching as the school’s first dedicated clinical director.
The truth is that Ken had been the clinical director there before there was a clinical program to direct. He started the first clinic there, JSL’s Mediation Clinic, even as he founded the school’s center on alternative dispute resolution and as he helped design and shape Alabama’s systems for alternative dispute resolution. He researched, designed and launched the school’s externship program, all before the school moved from state-accreditation to full approval by the ABA. Ken wisely navigated complex local politics, using his training and experience as a mediator and negotiator to help guide JSL through great and disruptive transitions.
Ken laid the foundation for the clinical program which I led for a long season as a rookie law professor, and he only ever encouraged and empowered me. We became and are fast friends, and he is a wise, calm and committed colleague with a heart for justice. We coached JSL’s ABA Negotiation Competition and the ABA Representation in Mediation Competition teams, and won a national championship in 2013. In these competitions, we traveled the country together with students, and I discovered Ken’s secret weapon. He knew really good restaurants in every single city we ever visited, and this is knowledge not to be underestimated.
Professor Ken Dunham is a loving, funny teacher, and he has had a formative effect on generations of students at JSL. He has transformed Alabama’s system and culture of alternative dispute resolution. He has been indispensable in the building of a strong and scrappy law school that serves Montgomery and Alabama with excellence. He is a great friend to many and is a wise mentor to young lawyers throughout the South. He is devoted as a husband and father, and he tells great stories without end. He is an excellent, practical lawyer.
Thoreau wrote, “Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” Ken Dunham is moral, and he is good. He lives a full and abundant life, and he has been good for something. He has earned retirement, but he will strive to teach and love students for one more semester. His legacy is secure.