Release date: April 27, 2004
Contact: Elaine Justice, Associate Director, University Media Relations,
at 404-727-0643 or

Emory Law School Honors Distinguished Alumni

Emory Law School will honor lawyers, a jurist and a former ambassador with its Distinguished Alumni Award at a ceremony at 8 p.m., Friday, May 7 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta. Recipients include: Brenda Hill Cole, class of 1977, judge of the State Court of Fulton County, Ga.; Charles T. Lester Jr., class of 1967, partner with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, LLP; Fred D. Bentley Sr., class of 1949, a partner with Bentley, Bentley & Bentley; and Edward Elliott Elson, class of 1959, former U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark.

Cole has distinguished herself as a public servant, advocate and leader in the Atlanta community. She was appointed to the state court by then Gov. Zell Miller in 1998, after having served in the Georgia attorney general's office as assistant attorney general for the environmental division, then as senior attorney general and deputy attorney general. In addition to Emory, she holds degrees from Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University.

Cole has a record of exemplary service to Emory, having served on the Law Alumni Association executive committee, and on board of directors for the Michael C. Carlos Museum for 11 years. She currently serves on the Emory Law School Council, and has participated in the Atlanta Mentor Program and the Black Law Students Association Mentor Program.

Cole's many community honors include: induction in the 2003 YWCA Academy of Women Achievers, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education's Presidential Citation, and Spelman College's 2001 Alumnae Achievement Award in Business and Law.

Lester has made numerous contributions to the legal profession. He serves on the chief justice's Commission on Indigent Defense; is a fellow of the American and Georgia bar foundations, and a member of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit Public Defender Selection Panel. He was president of the State Bar of Georgia from 1991 to 1992 and served on the bar's executive committee from 1977 to 1979 and from 1987 to 1993.

A graduate of both Emory College and the law school, Lester chaired the law school's annual giving fund and served on the Law School Council. His commitment to public interest includes serving as president of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc.; treasurer for Georgia Indigent Legal Services; and on the board of Georgia Legal Services Program. He co-founded, with law school classmate Marvin Arrington, the diversity program of the State Bar of Georgia. Nationally, Lester served as co-chairman of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law from 1999 to 2001.

Lester's awards include the State Bar of Georgia's Distinguished Service Award in 1987; the H. Sol Clark Pro Bono Service Award in 1989; the Women and Minorities in the Profession Committee Commitment to Equality Award in 2004; and he was selected as a Georgia Super Lawyer by his peers in a survey conducted by Georgia Trend in 2003.

In addition to his legal career, Bentley served three terms in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1951 to 1957. In 1958, he served one term in the Georgia Senate. His many civic activities include being past president of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce; past state chairman of the Georgia Mental Health Association; co-founder of Family Resources Inc.; and president of the Emory University Alumni Association. Also, Bentley was president of the Law Alumni Association and the class reunion committee.

Known as "Mr. Marietta" for his many contributions to the community, Bentley is trustee emeritus and co-founder of Kennesaw State University. He has been named to Who's Who in America, is the recipient of the Clarice C. Bagwell Distinguished Service Award, the Gold Key Award, the Blue Key Honorary Membership Award, and Volunteer of the Year Award from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The State of Georgia named a bridge on Interstate 75 in his honor.

Elson has been recognized as an outstanding leader and public servant. After being chairman of W.H. Smith Holdings U.S.A., he served as the U.S. ambassador to Denmark from 1993 to 1998. In 1998, Elson received the Great Cross of the Order of Dannenbrog, the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Danish queen to a non-head of state, and is held by only 26 living Danes. He is the only non-Dane ever to be awarded the Merkenom Prize, given to the individual who has made the most significant contribution to the economic life of Denmark. At Emory, Elson was the first chairman of the board of the Carlos Museum, and now is chairman emeritus.

In addition to his Emory degree, Elson received a bachelor's degree with honors from the University of Virginia and served as the school's 34th rector. He also served as the first chairman of National Public Radio and first chairman of its foundation. Elson was the first recipient of NPR's Distinguished Service Award, now named in his honor.

Elson's longtime devotion to public service includes serving as chairman of the Georgia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission; a trustee of the Asia Society; and chairman of the Institute for the Study of Europe at Columbia University. Elson currently serves as the U.S. representative on the council of senior advisors to the International Association of University Presidents.

Elson is a resident of Palm Beach, Fla.



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