Rambert Tyree, a third-year student at the University of Virginia School of Law, is this year’s recipient of the Gregory H. Swanson Award, named in honor of UVA and the Law School’s first Black student.

The award recognizes students who demonstrate courage, perseverance and a commitment to justice within the community.

Tyree received the award Tuesday as part of UVA’s Community MLK Celebration event hosted by the Law School.

“It’s a blessing,” Tyree said. “It means a lot knowing what Gregory Swanson stood for and thinking about how he was the first Black student, and really in a time where it took a lot of persistence, and the fact that he was so resolute in his convictions toward inclusivity, equality and progress. That a lot of my peers and professors and staff saw those characteristics in me, that definitely means a lot. So I’m really, truly honored.”

At UVA Law, Tyree, a Hunton Andrews Kurth Scholarship recipient, was inducted into the Raven Society and has been co-lead Peer Advisor, Black Law Students Association treasurer and a BLSA Mock Trial Competition regional semifinalist.

The Newport News, Virginia, native earned his bachelor’s degree from UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. As an undergraduate, Tyree was a Meriwether Lewis Fellow, served as the student member on the Strategic Planning Committee led by President Jim Ryan ’92 and was on the varsity football team. He and a classmate started “Building Bridges Lunches,” in which McIntire undergraduate and graduate students are randomly paired to share a meal together.

Tyree said his most rewarding moment at the Law School was being named co-lead Peer Advisor, with Meghan Wingert ’22. As part of shaping the law school experience for first-year students, he said transitioning out of hybrid learning has given them a chance to mold the culture at UVA Law.

“We’ve definitely been really intentional about shaping the structure to make sure that everyone feels included and that people can feel true to themselves and that they can feel like this is the home where we’re able to be honest with ourselves while also pursuing our education and pursuing excellence,” he said.

The Swanson award, launched in 2018 during a commemoration of Swanson’s time at UVA, is meant to recognize students who have the traits he embodied. Swanson attended UVA Law during the 1950-51 academic year as an LL.M. student after winning a federal lawsuit aided by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Professor Richard Schragger, one of Tyree’s nominators, served as Tyree’s Meriwether Lewis Fellow mentor, but “it turned out that in many ways he has mentored me.”

“I’ve learned a great deal about patience and self-reflection from Rambert — about connection and communication,” Schragger wrote in his nomination. “I’ve learned to slow down a little — and I have sought out his counsel for that very reason. Rambert is a remarkable person, a remarkable student, and a remarkable friend.”

Wingert said Tyree is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people she knows.

“Rambert does not back down or compromise his morals, and his top priority is ensuring that everyone feels like they belong,” she and other Peer Advisors wrote in their nomination. “He and I have made ‘Inclusion’ the motto for the Peer Advisor program this year — at his suggestion — and he has striven to reach that goal in everything he does.” 

Tyree plans to work at McGuireWoods in Richmond after graduation. In the long term, he aspires to work toward increasing access to high-quality education for all through public policy. A product of public schools, he said there is ample potential to shape education in a way that produces the best outcomes for everybody.

“Education was something that my parents always pushed. Even though they never were able to get a four-year education and college wasn’t something they had any experience with, they just knew that there was so much hope for the future in pursuing education,” he added. “When I think about Gregory Swanson, that was a piece of his fight and realizing that we all deserve to have an adequate, equal and high-quality education.”

Previous Gregory H. Swanson Award Winners

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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