Past Recipients


Dean’s Medal for Judicial Excellence

The Honorable Rossie D. Alston, Jr.
Judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia

Judge Rossie David Alston, Jr. attended Averett College (now Averett University) and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979. Upon graduating from Averett College, Judge Alston matriculated to the North Carolina Central University School of Law where he graduated with a Juris Doctorate cum laude and fifth in his graduating class in 1982. While at the law school Judge Alston served as an editor of the North Carolina Central Law Journal and was a member of the national competition Moot Court Teams and Client Counseling Teams.

Upon passing the Virginia Bar Examination in 1982, Judge Alston began work with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D. C. In 1984, he accepted a position as a staff attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. In 1985, Judge Alston became a member of the District of Columbia Bar and the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. He remains a member of five United States Circuit Courts of Appeal. In 1989, he became a principle in the law firm of Merchak, Alston & Rollison, and in 1992, he became a partner in the law firm of Smith Hudson Hammond & Alston.

In 1998 Judge Alston was elected by the Virginia legislature as a Judge of the Prince William Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

In January 2001, Judge Alston was elected as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Prince William County. In January of 2009, the Virginia legislature reelected Judge Alston to this position. Judge Alston served as Chief-Judge of the Circuit Court of Prince William County from 2007 until his election in February 2009 as the thirty-second judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia where he currently serves.

Judge Alston is an Emeritus Member of the George Mason Inns of Court, and a former faculty member and guest lecturer to the Virginia State Bar Professionalism Committee. He currently serves on the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, the Judicial Education Committee, the Criminal Law Section of the Virginia State Bar, the Virginia Sentencing Commission, the Virginia State Pro Bono Committee and the Special Commission Reviewing the Rules of Criminal Discovery in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Judge Alston is also an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University and a Distinguished Adjunct Professor at the George Mason University Law School.

Dean’s Medal for Legislative Excellence

The Honorable Charniele Herring (BA ’93)
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates (46th District)

Charniele Herring has spent her life standing up for people others don’t see.
Born into a military family, Charniele moved often as a child before landing permanently in Northern Virginia. As a teenager, Charniele’s mother lost her job. Despite her best efforts, they ended up homeless. By day, Charniele attended West Springfield High School while her mother searched for work; by night, they stayed in a homeless shelter. Charniele’s experience with homelessness shaped her character, teaching her the values of hard work, resilience, and looking out for people society too often overlooks.

Charniele attended George Mason University as a part of the STEP Program for disadvantaged students, graduating with a degree in Economics. She later attended Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law and went on to work with the oldest African American law firm in the greater Washington, DC area before opening her own firm in Northern Virginia. Today Charniele works as General Counsel to Admin & Logistics, Inc., a government contracting firm.

Charniele was elected to the General Assembly in a 2009 special election, the first African American woman from Northern Virginia ever elected to Virginia’s legislature. She has since served on the Joint Subcommittee Studying Strategies and Models for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, Governor McDonnell’s internal working group on voting rights restoration, the Virginia State Crime Commission, and Governor McAuliffe’s Taskforce on Heroin and Prescription Drugs. She is the founder of the Virginia Legislative Reproductive Health Caucus, and her work fighting back against Gov. McDonnell’s forced ultrasound bill was described as “heroic” by the National Organization for Women.

Charniele’s trailblazing legislative work has been recognized by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters with the Legislative Hero Award; the Virginia Education Association with the 2009 “Rookie of the Year” award and “Solid as a Rock” awards in both 2013 and 2015; and by all those who know that Charniele continues to be a tireless advocate for women, families, and those forgotten by society.

A past chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia, Charniele helped Democrats sweep statewide offices and make legislative gains in 2013. She was elected Chair of the House Democratic Caucus in 2015, providing strategic guidance and oversight to Democratic campaigns for House of Delegates.

Dean’s Medal for Alumni Excellence in Pro Bono Legal Services

Stephen T. Fowler, Esq. (JD ’99)
Greenberg Traurig LLP

Stephen T. Fowler focuses his practice on products liability defense. He is experienced defending manufacturers of a wide variety of products from medical devices and pharmaceuticals in mass tort litigation, to individual cases involving various medical devices, consumer products, food contamination, complicated machinery and heavy equipment. For more than 15 years, Stephen has defended manufacturers of products in the State and Federal Courts in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. and in MDL actions nationwide. In each of his products cases, he works closely with medical, scientific and regulatory experts.

Stephen has wide-ranging courtroom experience and has tried over a dozen jury trials as first and second chair. He has tried over 100 bench trials to verdict in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.


The Dean’s Medal for Judicial Excellence

Donald W. Lemons
The Honorable Donald W. Lemons
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia

Donald W. Lemons is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. A distinguished jurist and legal educator, Chief Justice Lemons has served as a judge or justice at every level of the judiciary in Virginia and, in addition to Washington and Lee University, he has taught at the law schools at the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond. He is a national leader in numerous legal and civic organizations, including the American Inns of Court, an organization that brings together legal practitioners of all levels to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the bar and bench. He served as the President of the American Inns of Court from 2010-2014.

Chief Justice Lemons graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1976 and served as an assistant dean and assistant professor of law at the law school for several years. After a successful career in private practice, Lemons was appointed in 1995 to the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond by Gov. George Allen. In 1998 Lemons was elected by the Virginia General Assembly to the Court of Appeals of Virginia and then to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2000. He also served as the John Marshall Professor of Judicial Studies at the University of Richmond law school from 2005-2007. He has been the Distinguished Professor of Judicial Studies at Washington and Lee’s School of Law since 2007. Chief Justice Lemons was named a Jessine Monaghan Fellow for the 2015-16 academic year. He is also the 2016 recipient of the William R. Rakes Leadership in Education Award from the Virginia State Bar.

The Dean’s Medal for Legislative Excellence

William J. Howell
The Honorable William J. Howell
Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates

William J. Howell is a senior advisor with McGuireWoods Consulting LLC where he assists clients on a range of strategic and policy issues in a non-lobbying role.

His practice includes multistate government relations and public affairs efforts where he assists clients in making contact with legislative and other leaders in multiple states. He also counsels clients on their government affairs strategies and helps identify new businesses and organizations who can benefit from the firm’s services.

Prior to joining McGuireWoods Consulting, Howell served as the Speaker of the House of Delegates from 2003 to 2018 making him one of the longest-serving Speakers in the history of the commonwealth. During his tenure as Speaker, Virginia posted 10 budget surpluses totaling $2.5 billion. Under his leadership the House of Delegates emphasized significant reforms in state government and strategic investments in higher education, economic development, and mental health services. Other notable legislative achievements include a major transportation initiative passed with bipartisan support and state-funded incentives for land conservation.