Gergen Award recipient eyes career in criminal law

Marissa Kuzbyt L'16 accepted Elon University School of Law's highest honor at May's Commencement when she received the 2016 David Gergen Award for Leadership & Professionalism.

Marissa Kuzbyt, recipient of the 2016 David Gergen Award for Leadership & Professionalism, is hooded during Commencement on May 21, 2016.
An Elon Law student described by classmates as “a true leader who is dedicated to service in all aspects of life” was honored this spring at Commencement with the school’s most prestigious award.

Marissa Kuzbyt L’16 received the David Gergen Award for Leadership & Professionalism on May 21, 2016, when she was recognized in front of family and classmates at graduation on Elon University’s main campus.

Students are nominated by their peers and selected by faculty based on law school activities that represent the twin principles of leadership and professionalism. Kuzbyt’s nominators praised her wisdom, mentorship and encouragement, with one classmate saying she “led by example as she motivated us to be the most successful law students we could be.”

“After graduation my dad and I talked about how wonderful it is to be accepted and recognized by your peers, and that to me was the biggest honor of the day,” Kuzbyt said of the award. “Being recognized by those who have been with me for three years is something so amazing that I cannot put it into words. I am so thankful to have been surrounded by wonderful classmates, teachers and law school staff, and if it was not for all of them I would not feel ready to enter the real world.

“I truly am just so honored to have been recognized.”

The award is named in honor of David Gergen, whose professional life and contributions have embodied the highest levels of selfless leadership and service. Gergen has served as adviser to four United States presidents. He is the director of the Center for Public Leadership and Professor of Public Service at the Harvard Kennedy School, one of the country’s preeminent political commentators, and chair of Elon’s Law School Advisory Board.

Kuzbyt, who attended Elon Law after earning her bachelor’s degree at Methodist University, served the school and the community by reviving the Lawyer on the Line program, working with Phi Alpha Delta to raise money for charity, co-chairing the Billings Exum Frye National Moot Court Competition, and devoting significant time and energy to the Silent Auction, #ElonDay, and Class Gift programs.  

Beyond her roles at school and in the community, she has demonstrated her commitment to public service through her work in the District Attorney’s office.

Kuzbyt said she hopes to work as a prosecutor after passing the bar exam. “I want to help people and make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I have been lucky to have some incredible mentors who have shown me that being a prosecutor allows you to help not only victims and families, but defendants as well, which has only solidified my desire.”

Assistant Professor Patricia Perkins presented the award to Kuzbyt during a Commencement program that conferred degrees on 88 students in Elon University School of Law’s Class of 2016.