Mock courtroom named for Chris Huther ’88
In a crowded mock courtroom on Friday, Feb. 3, the large contingent gathered there signaled by their presence that they were unanimously in favor of naming the academic space in which they sat – an early training ground for up-and-coming legal scholars – in honor of Radford University alumnus Chris Huther ’88, an attorney whom President Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D., called that day a champion for Radford.
Hence, on the wall behind the judge’s seat, in bold silver letters, read The Christopher S. Huther Courtroom.
“This courtroom is a space where undergraduates get to experiment, get to practice and get experience in the law,” said Radford College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS) Dean Matthew J. Smith, Ph. D., speaking about the classroom on the fifth floor of Hemphill Hall that is dedicated to legal studies at Radford and serves as a practice facility for the university’s budding mock trial team.
“We are here to acknowledge the generosity of one of our alums, “Smith continued, “who has been an outstanding representative for Radford University and the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.”
Huther, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents the nation’s leading communications companies, industry associations and equipment manufacturers in complex litigation , “exemplifies the experience that we have tried to build at Radford University,” Danilowicz noted while explaining that, as a Radford undergraduate, Huther was given the opportunity to study under former Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, who also served as President John F. Kennedy’s secretary of labor and the United States ambassador to the United Nations.
“Not bad to be paired up with,” an impressed Danilowicz said to the gathering made up mostly of students, as well as university faculty, staff, alumni and the CHBS advisory board.
Huther himself has an impressive resume as a partner in the Wiley Rein law firm in Washington, D.C. As a litigator, he appears regularly before state and federal trial and appellate courts, regulatory agencies and in arbitrations and mediations.
“My four years here were really transformative,” Huther said, “from the education I received to the opportunities I was given, both inside and outside the classroom, to the friends I made, both with my classmates and with the faculty. They were beyond anything I could have ever imagined. They were extraordinary.”
Huther, who until recently served as chair of the Radford University Foundation Board, explained he supports the university and its mission because Radford was “so influential and instrumental” in helping him achieve his academic and professional goals.
The courtroom, as it’s often referred to, is an academic space that houses a judge's bench, witness stand, prosecution and defense tables and jury box. Technology in the room includes display monitors for presenting evidence and cameras to monitor/record activities in the courtroom for evaluation and presentation after mock trials are completed.
“When Hemphill Hall opened in 2016, one of the things we were most proud of was the number of spaces that were highly tailored and dedicated to educating students for the workforce in the 21st century,” Smith said. “One of the truly unique offerings in this building is this courtroom.
Following the brief ceremony to honor Huther, Radford’s mock trial team, coached by criminal justice instructor Don Martin, gave the audience a demonstration of how the courtroom is used and an insight into their competitions against other colleges and universities. A generous gift from Huther will support the mock trial team over the next decade and beyond.
About 160 Radford University alumni have gone on to law careers, and interest in the legal profession is high among current and incoming students. That prompted faculty within the university to create the mock trial team, to expand and re-imagine the Law Society and create a legal studies minor. Martin and Assistant Professor of Political Science Allyson Yankle, Ph.D., were instrumental in creating those initiatives.
“This exemplifies the type of interaction we are trying to have with the facilities, our faculty and our students,” Danilowicz said. “There is nothing that conveys the type of relationship we are trying to have with our students, more than this room.”