‘Effective, selfless leader’ receives Elon Law’s top award for graduates

Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua was honored at Commencement for the Class of 2022 with the David Gergen Award for Leadership & Professionalism in recognition of an unwavering commitment to serving his colleagues, his law school, and the community.

A new Elon Law graduate who served over the past two-and-a-half years in a variety of leadership roles that allowed him to mentor and encourage classmates has received the law school’s highest honor bestowed on a member of each graduating class.

Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua accepted the David Gergen Award for Leadership & Professionalism during Commencement on December 9 for Elon University School of Law’s Class of 2022.

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, a former adviser to four United States presidents and founding director of the Center for Public Leadership and at the Harvard Kennedy School. Gergen is one of the country’s preeminent political commentators and has chaired Elon Law’s Board of Advisors since the law school opened.

“I had two thoughts as I sat in the front row with my graduating class: whether my family made it into the Alumni Gym on time as I would be the second person to receive my degree on stage, and that I hope the person I had nominated gets picked because I thought I wrote a darn good nomination on their behalf,” Agyemang-Dua said. “I was stunned that I was even a contender for such an honor.”

Agyemang-Dua’s list of Elon Law service activities and accolades is extensive:

  • Student representative for the Elon Law Strategic Planning Committee for Inclusive Excellence
  • Moot Court Board member and a co-chair of the Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition
  • Leadership Fellow
  • Elon Law Review business editor
  • President of the Black Law Students Association
  • Assistant director for the Orientation Mentors Program
  • North Carolina Bar Association student representative for Elon Law
  • Teaching assistant
  • Academic Fellow
  • First place in both the “Fire Next Time” Black History Month Essay Competition and the “High Rhymes and Misdemeanors” Poetry Slam
  • Student practitioner in Elon Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic
Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua L’22 after being hooded during Commencement for Elon Law’s Class of 2022.

“He demonstrates patience and wisdom as he interacts with his peers and is genuinely invested in not only his own success, but also the success of his student colleagues,” Professor Steve Friedland said when presenting the award at Commencement. “He helps without hesitation and leads by example on what it means to be a good law student and good person.”

Several nominators emphasized the way Agyemang-Dua leveraged his own first-year experiences – both the good and the bad – to help and encourage those who follow in his footsteps.

“I have seen first-hand, while walking with him through the building, how students will stop him to ask for advice,” one nominator wrote. “He has made it a commitment to establish relationships that will far outlive his time as a student.”

Said another: “Having had the privilege to know Emmanuel over the past 2.5 years, I have witnessed him host study sessions, create study aids, encourage others, and remain an advocate for his fellow peers. This level of dedication is an innate part of his character, and I am certain that it will transcend into his legal career and extend into the surrounding community.”

Agyemang-Dua earned his Bachelor of Arts in public policy and leadership, followed two years later with a Master of Public Health in health policy, law, and ethics, from the University of Virginia. He plans to practice in either employment law or health law after passing the February 2023 bar exam in North Carolina.

“I serve and immerse myself in the community as my expression of gratitude for what the community has afforded me,” Agyemang-Dua said. “If I had the bandwidth for helping to create a space for others, if I had the energy to help another person struggle less than I did, and if it cost me nothing to share my outlines, mistakes, and my encouragement with the next person, I made sure to do so.”