March 2, 2009
From VisionSMU newsletter
Judge James L. Noel Jr. once told a family member that he wished he could afford to someday endow the dean’s chair at his alma mater.
Noel’s five children have honored their late father’s wish – endowing the deanship of SMU’s Dedman School of Law in his name. The $4 million gift from the Noel family of Houston, combined with $1 million from the Dallas family of school namesake Robert H. Dedman, Sr., will allow the law school to continue its tradition of strong leadership and provide the office of the dean with ongoing funds for special projects within the school.
“This is a wonderful way to honor Judge Noel and a historic moment for Dedman School of Law,” says John B. Attanasio, the dean since 1998 who now assumes the title Judge James Noel Dean and Professor of Law. “Only a few law schools in the country have endowed deanships, and even fewer are endowed at the $5 million level.”
Noel’s five children and their spouses, all Houston residents, joined in making the gift to SMU. Four of the five children and three spouses have SMU degrees – all but two from Dedman School of Law: Carol Noel King ’76, J. Stephen King ’77, Robert C. Noel ’80, ’89, Deanne Moore Noel ’89 and William D. Noel ’82. Edmund O. Noel ’75 and Patrice Oden Noel ’75 received their undergraduate degrees from SMU. James L. Noel III attended law school in Houston, but his daughter, Mindy McGehee Riseden ’03, graduated from Dedman School of Law.
Judge Noel earned three degrees from SMU – a Bachelor’s in civil engineering in 1931 and a Bachelor’s in commerce in 1932, followed by an L.L.B. from SMU’s law school in 1938. The Denton County native became an assistant Texas attorney general after graduating. He had established his own law firm by the time President Kennedy appointed him to the federal bench in Houston in 1961. Judge Noel served in that position until 1980 and died August 29, 1997.
Noel’s children usually meet Mondays for lunch over hamburgers. Will Noel explained that over several weeks, inspired by the Dedman family’s matching gift, the Noel siblings had discussed increasing donations to their father’s Dedman Law scholarship fund. Carol Noel King told her brothers that her husband, J. Stephen King, had heard the Judge’s rather wistful comment about endowing the deanship.
“We all looked at each other,” he said, “and that was it.”
To learn about supporting Dedman School of Law, please contact Director of Development Lynn Bozalis at 214-768-4527 or email@example.com.