Friday, June 29, 2001

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172

CONTACT: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172, pharr@arches.uga.edu


ATHENS, Ga. -- The University of Georgia Law School Alumni Association has presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Scroll Award, to Bruce W. Kirbo, an attorney in Bainbridge, Ga., and John S. Noell, Jr., an attorney in Athens, Ga. The award is given each year to two individuals whose services to the legal profession and to the UGA School of Law are worthy of special recognition. The awards were presented during the Law School Association's annual breakfast held in conjunction with the Georgia State Bar meeting at Kiawah Island, S.C. on Friday, June 15, 2001.

Kirbo is the senior practitioner in the South Georgia circuit. He entered the University of Georgia at the age of 16 and earned a law degree in 1951 at the age of 21. While at UGA, Kirbo made a mark as a student leader: he was a member of Blue Key and Gridiron, president of Demosthenian, and served two terms of service on the law school's honor court. He was admitted to the Georgia Bar just a few days after his 21st birthday and, after two years of service in the military, began his successful private practice in Bainbridge. During his distinguished career, Kirbo has served as a member of the board of governors and other committees of the State Bar, as a special master for the Supreme Court of Georgia, as well as a member of the School of Law's Board of Visitors. He was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1979 and is now a Fellow of the organization.

Kirbo has also led a lifetime of leadership, service and philanthropy to his local community. He has represented the Decatur County School Board since 1979, served as a member of the executive board of the Bainbridge College Foundation, as president of the Kiwanis Club, as chairman of the First Christian Church, and as a Sunday School teacher. In addition, he and his brother, the late Charles H. Kirbo (a Distinguished Service Scroll recipient in 1978), were named chairmen of the Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Trust in the 1980s. That fund, named for his late uncle and aunt, has benefited numerous educational institutions, including the University of Georgia School of Law, where a total of more than $2 million presently endows the Charles H. Kirbo Professorship of International Law. The city of Bainbridge also has the Kirbo Trust to thank for its YMCA building.

"Today we honor Bruce, but in honoring Bruce, we must honor the entire Kirbo family," said Beaird. "I cannot think of another group who, as a family, has served the university and its law school as this family has."

Kirbo and his wife, Cass, have been married for 45 years. They have five children, all of whom graduated from UGA. Bruce Wheat Kirbo, Jr., a UGA law graduate like his father, now practices with his father at the firm of Kirbo & Kendrick in Bainbridge.



"I have been practicing law for 50 years," said Kirbo upon receiving his award. "I have had some good times and some hard times, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I appreciate the university. I appreciate the law school, and I appreciate every one of you."

John S. Noell, Jr., a native of Thomaston, Ga., also earned both his undergraduate (1963) and law degrees (1965) from the University of Georgia. He was a distinguished military graduate of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and secretary/treasurer of his first-year law class. Noell served as a captain in the U.S. Army with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam from 1967-'68 and received numerous commendations for service: Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, and Republic of Vietnam Medal with Gold Star. He returned to Athens in 1968 and continues to practice there today with the law firm of Cook, Noell, Tolley, Bates & Michael.

Noell's excellence as a litigator has led to his election to membership in the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and Association of Trial Lawyers of America. He served as president of the Athens Bar Association in 1976-'77 and taught trial practice as an instructor at the UGA law school from 1973-'74. Noell's service to the law school also includes leadership as president of the Law School Association (1992-'93), chairman of the Board of Visitors (1999-2000), ex-officio member of the Dean Search Committee (1992-'93), member of the Law School Bicentennial Celebration Committee, fund-raising class agent for four years, and chair of his Class of 1965 reunion on five occasions. He is also a member of the UGA Partners, the Presidents Club, Heritage Society and Joseph Henry Lumpkin Society - all among the most prestigious designations for financial support of the University of Georgia and its School of Law.

Noell gives of his time and energy to the local community as well. He has served as past president of the local Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, and American Cancer Society chapter.

"For the past 36 years, John Noell has been what a good alumnus should be - a lawyer generous with his time, generous with his leadership skills and yes, his financial support," said Callaway Professor Emeritus Verner Chaffin, Noell's former law school professor, who presented him with the award. "[The law school] has not hesitated to place responsibility on John Noell and to let him know that we trusted him. He has always been faithful to that trust. John has done honor to the law school and all his fellow alumni by rendering service back to our community of scholars and the legal profession."

Noell and his wife, Claudia Stowers Noell, have been married for 37 years. She is retired from the UGA Cooperative Extension Service and had served for 10 years as extension agent for Athens-Clarke County. In 1999, she received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UGA's College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"You don't know what you're missing as alumni until you get involved with the institution," Noell said in his acceptance remarks. "I encourage all of you to take away from this meeting of the State Bar a renewed dedication to your law school. And it is your law school, and you have an investment in it. You need to make sure that you don't lose the opportunity to participate."


PHOTO CAPTION: UGA Distinguished Service Scroll Presenters and Recipients (l. to r.) Dean Emeritus Ralph Beaird, Recipient Bruce Kirbo of Bainbridge, Recipient John Noell of Athens, Callaway Professor Emeritus Verner Chaffin, and UGA School of Law Dean David Shipley.