NCBA recognizes five WFU alumni as outstanding citizen lawyers

The North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the NCBA Citizen Lawyer Award for 2014. Among the 19 lawyers selected from a statewide slate of nominees have been chosen for this recognition, five are Wake Forest University alumni. The award ceremony took place June 20 at the NCBA 2014 Annual Meeting in Wilmington.

The Citizen Lawyer Award recognizes lawyers who exemplify the ideals of a citizen lawyer: public service in appointed and elected positions, work with non-profit charitable and political organizations, military service and volunteering with youth sports programs and with religious organizations.

The 2014 Citizen Lawyer recipients are:

C. Christopher Bean (JD ’74), Chief District Court Judge, Edenton

Judge Christopher Bean has devoted the past 35 years to preserving and promoting the town of Edenton, the former capital of North Carolina and one of its grandest historical treasures. True to that tradition, Bean has chaired the Edenton Historical Commission, served as president of the Edenton Historical Foundation, and has been a member of the Edenton-Chowan Community Foundation. He also serves on the board of the N.C. Museum of History Associates.

Edenton “is a place where history lives,” Bean stated, “and there is great pride in preserving that history and the structures that make it unique and beautiful. As one who also loves history and architecture, my work along with so many others to meet the necessary need to preserve and protect has given me a real sense of personal purpose and satisfaction.”

Bean is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Nancy Borders Paschall (BA ’82, JD ’85), Mullen Holland & Cooper, P.A., Gastonia

If there’s a group doing good work for the community in Gastonia or Gaston County, there’s a good chance Nancy Paschall has helped it. She has served on the board of directors of the Gastonia Police Foundation, chaired the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce, Gaston County United Way and the Gaston County Chapter of the American Red Cross, and served as president of the Gastonia Civitan Club. Paschall currently serves on the board of directors of the Catawba Lands Conservancy, Covenant Village, Inc. and Carolina Trust Bank.

“It never fails that I benefit more from being involved with an organization than the time, effort or support that I give to that organization,” Paschall said. “Involvement in a myriad of organizations has introduced me to new friends, afforded me different opportunities for personal growth, and instilled in me a deep appreciation for my numerous blessings. These diverse experiences have splashed my life with color, given texture to my experiences, and pieced together many friends to create my beautiful quilt of life both professionally and personally.”

Paschall is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest University School of Law.

John W. Lassiter (BA ’76, JD ’80), Carolina Legal Staffing LLC, Charlotte

John Lassiter is the consummate citizen lawyer. He has served on the Charlotte City Council and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. He has served as president of the Mecklenburg County Bar and the Children’s Law Center. Lassiter presently serves as chair of the N.C. Economic Development Board.

“As members of the legal profession, we have an obligation to engage in addressing the pressing issues of the community around us and in many cases provide critical leadership,” Lassiter said. “Our training and experience are valuable in analyzing complex issues as well as managing sensitive matters. Lawyers are uniquely qualified to serve and in my mind, are expected to provide thoughtful leadership and direction. The reward of service is easily seen in the improvements you help make in the world around you.”

Lassiter is a graduate of Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University School of Law, and holds a Master of Public Administration from North Carolina State University.

Gemma L. Saluta (BA ’99), Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, Winston-Salem

Before entering law school, Gemma Saluta spent a year with AmeriCorps, where she helped the working poor in Columbus, Ohio. The experience made a profound impression on her, as evidenced by her commitment to volunteerism and pro bono service as an attorney. She has provided volunteer leadership to Family Violence Impact Council of United Way of Forsyth County, HandsOn Northwest North Carolina and the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem, and pro bono service to the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and Legal Aid of North Carolina.

“I think that volunteering in your community benefits everyone,” Saluta said. “The recipient of your work obviously benefits. However, the community benefits from having more stable members. The volunteer benefits in a number of ways: honing their craft, expanding their network, meeting a challenge, developing new skills, feeding a passion, filling a gap, and defining what you want to be.”

Saluta is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

Michael F. Royster (BA ’68), Royster & Royster, Pilot Mountain

Mike Royster divides his citizen lawyer service between leadership roles that help the community at large and coaching roles that serve youth in particular. At the end of the day, it all helps make his community a better place to live and work. He has served 22 years of the Surry Community College Board of Trustees, including four years as vice chair and chair, and chaired the Pilot Mountain Foundation. He’s been a head coach for 13 years for the Pilot Mountain Little League and the Pilot Mountain Recreational Basketball League, and has played Santa Claus at two local elementary schools for 20 years.

“I feel the good Lord blessed me with certain talents, and that it was my duty as a lawyer to help my fellow citizens in the community,” Royster said. “When a 15-year-old high school student looks you in the eye with tears streaming down her face and tells you, ‘You have changed my life,’ it makes it all worthwhile.”

Royster is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Cumberland School of Law.