Gergen Award winner ‘understands what it means to uphold justice’

Mike Davis saw many ways to help his classmates thrive during their legal studies. His passion for bettering the community earned him Elon University School of Law’s top student honor at Commencement for embodying the highest levels of selfless leadership and service.

An Elon Law alumnus who “answered the call” of service to several student organizations and programs over the past two years is the 2021 recipient of the law school’s most prestigious honor for new graduates.

Allan Michael “Mike” Davis, Jr., received the David Gergen Award for Leadership & Professionalism during Commencement on December 11 for Elon University School of Law’s Class of 2021.

Elon Law students are nominated for the award by their peers, professors, or staff. Honorees are selected by a faculty and staff committee based on law school activities that represent the twin principles of leadership and professionalism.

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 Law’s Board of Advisors.

Allan Michael “Mike” Davis, Jr., of Elon Law’s Class of 2021

Davis’s list of contributions to Elon Law is extensive: he served as chair of the Honor Council, as an Academic Fellow, as an Orientation mentor for new students, and as co-chair of Elon Law Reaches Out, an annual summer program that introduces incoming law students to various service opportunities in the community.

Davis also served as president of the Criminal Law Society and the Federalist Society, as a member of the faculty recruitment committee, and as a teaching assistant. Outside of law school, he serves Fishburne Military School, his high school alma mater in Virginia, as president of the board of directors of its alumni association.

“My favorite part of the whole thing? It was the people who surrounded me,” Davis said of his time at Elon Law. “The people I met here will be friends for the rest of my life.”

One nominator described Davis as a self-aware leader who recognizes how he is “a part of something greater than himself” while another wrote how he “understands what it means to uphold justice,” praising his “calm demeanor when it comes to classes and interacting with colleagues.”

“Like Mr. Gergen, this year’s recipient demonstrates the values we hope all of you go forth with as Elon lawyers: respect, integrity, professionalism, leadership, and service to others,” Professor Steve Friedland said at Commencement when announcing the award. “The author Stephen Covey once wrote, ‘What you do has far greater impact than what you say.’ And Indira Ghandi, the former prime minister of India, followed up on this idea when she said, ‘There are two kinds of people – those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.’

“I like to think Covey and Ghandi were talking about the students at Elon Law, who work very long hours and go about their law studies in such an impactful way that they bring out the best in those around them. … These sentiments certainly characterize our Gergen Award winner.”

A native of Leicester, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville, Davis said he was grateful for the support of his classmates, professors, and mentors – including attorneys at the Rockingham County District Attorney’s Office and Greensboro lawyer Afi Johnson-Parris for whom he interned.

The 2017 graduate of North Carolina State University worked as a probation and parole officer prior to Elon Law and said he tries to approach every interaction with the same ethos: “Try to be friendly to people and that will shine through everything.”

“Leadership is about trying to better ourselves in our personal lives. It’s making sure there’s nobody at the bottom, that you’re always looking out for others,” said Davis, who plans to practice law in North Carolina after passing the bar exam in February. “I tried to spend my time here at Elon building a better community, to make things better for others. That’s what it was about for me.”