The 2016 Winter Gala keynote speaker is Gene Nichol, Boyd Tinsley distinguished professor at UNC and Former Director of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. No one advocates more eloquently for our children, our courts, and our access to medical care. An international expert on constitutional law, he has served many university law schools as professor, three of them as Dean, and has been President of William and Mary. He has received a number of awards and is a member of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. North Carolina Democrats know him best for his cogent opinion pieces on poverty, politics, and injustice. He speaks out for those who have no voice, the helpless victims of the reckless Raleigh regime.
Gene Nichol is Boyd Tinsley distinguished professor at the University of North Carolina. From 2005-2008, Nichol was president of the College of William and Mary. He was Burton Craige professor and dean of the law school at UNC from 1999-2005 and law dean at the University of Colorado from 1988-1995. As dean, he started the Byron White Center of Constitutional Law, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, and the Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity.
Nichol has published articles in the Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Duke, California, and Virginia law reviews. He has been a political columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and hosted a public affairs television show, Culture Wars, for KBDI in Denver. He has been a monthly op-ed writer for the Raleigh News & Observer for fifteen years. He publishes regularly in The Progressive Populist and has written for The Nation and the Washington Post. He is executive producer of the documentary, “A Generation of Change: Bill Friday, Terry Sanford and North Carolina from the 1920s-1972” (UNC-TV, 2015).
In 2003, Nichol received the ABA’s Edward Finch Award for delivering the nation’s best Law Day address. In 2004, he was named Carolina’s pro bono professor of the year. The next year, Nichol was inducted into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor; and Equal Justice Works named him Pro Bono Law Dean of the year. In 2008, he received Oklahoma State University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award; the “Courage To Do Justice Award” from the National Employment Lawyers Association; and the Thomas Jefferson Award, for courage in the defense of religious liberty, from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. In 2013, the NC Council of Churches gave Nichol its Faith Active in Public Life Award; the NC-ACLU named him its W.W. Finlator Award winner; and the University of North Carolina gave him its Thomas Jefferson Award – the university’s highest faculty honor. In 2014, he received the McCall Teaching Award from the UNC Law School.
Nichol attended Oklahoma State University, receiving a degree in philosophy (1973) and playing varsity football. He obtained his J.D. from the University of Texas in 1976, graduating Order of the Coif.