FAMILY CREATES BARRY J. NACE CLASS OF 1969 SCHOLARSHIP TO HONOR DEEP CONNECTIONS TO DICKINSON LAW
June 17, 2022 — Penn State Dickinson Law became a family affair for Barry J. Nace (class of 1969) and his youngest son, Matthew A. Nace (class of 2008). Both attended the Law School after graduating from Dickinson College as undergraduates. They shared a fondness for Carlisle and a passion for the law sparked by their professors and classmates.
“My dad felt he owed his entire career, his family, everything to his legal education,” said Nace. “Dickinson Law held a special place in his heart. He always thought of Dickinson Law as the place where everything started for him.”
Indeed, the line between the law and family often blurred for Barry. He met his wife of 48 years, Andrea, through a case he worked on as a young lawyer. All three of the Naces’ sons became lawyers and practiced at one point at Paulson & Nace, PLLC, the Washington, D.C., law firm founded by Barry. Sons Matthew and Christopher Nace continue to maintain the firm and Barry’s dedication to the law and their clients (www.paulsonandnace.com).
When Barry passed away last year, his family wanted to honor two things, both his legal legacy and his incredible devotion to family. They recently established the Barry J. Nace Class of 1969 Scholarship at Dickinson Law in memory of Barry. The scholarship felt like a natural extension of his family and legal focuses.
First preference for the scholarship is given to students with a demonstrated interest in a career as a trial attorney, as reflected in their participation in advocacy-related courses, the Litigation & Dispute Resolution Certificate Program (or its successor programs), mock trial and moot court programs, and/or relevant internships. The family committed $50,000 to endow the scholarship, and several memorial gifts have already been added to the fund.
Balancing work and family
There’s perhaps no better illustration of Barry’s devotion to family and the law than the two sides Matthew Nace recalls his father showing. One was the “boss” side, which Barry took seriously even while having fun with it. He kept a sign on his work desk that said, “Rule No. 1: The boss is always right. Rule No. 2: When the boss is wrong, refer to rule No. 1.”
Then there was Barry’s other side, the “father” side. As soon as the Naces left the office, the “father” side emerged, and the younger Nace knew this side held greater importance to his father. “I could see him weigh the boss vs. the father role the whole time he worked with any of his kids. In the office, he’d be very boss-like, but then we’d go to lunch or dinner or to my parents’ house on the weekend, and he’d be very fatherly and loving and wouldn’t worry about what was going on at the office,” said Nace.
Whether Barry was being a boss or a father, he subscribed to his own self-made principle: “Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.”
Barry worked long hours, won groundbreaking cases—including the landmark decision on the admissibility of expert witness testimony in Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 589 (1993)—and tirelessly served leadership roles for organizations across the country dedicated to maintaining access to the courtroom doors. But he balanced that with loads of family time. He made the most of any opportunity to show his children new things.
For instance, on one trip to California during his tenure as the president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now known as the American Association for Justice), he left a few weeks early and brought his family to explore the nearby national parks. “He made sure we got to see everything,” said Nace. “I visited eight countries before I graduated from high school. He wanted to do all these crazy things, like go up in hot air balloons or whatever he could find. He tried to give his kids what he didn’t experience growing up in a family with meager means.”
A mentor in the courtroom and on the field
Nace, who established the scholarship with his mother and brothers Jonathan and Christopher, says his father believed in holding people accountable. That belief stretched from his practice, where Barry still emphasized collegiality across the aisle, to his personal life. “He practiced that truth as a lawyer and a parent. We grew up knowing we were not going to get away with things and had to recognize our mistakes,” said Nace.
A lifelong baseball fan, Barry coached all of his sons in the sport. Nace remembers one game as a five-year-old tee-ball player when another child couldn’t get the bat on the ball when he swung. Barry laid down in the dirt while the boy batted and held his leg, helping him keep his balance. Nace recalls parents’ amusement at his father’s positioning, but it worked. The little boy finally swatted the ball off the tee.
Decades later, Nace found himself in the same position at one of his son’s tee-ball games. It was like father, like son all over again: Nace lay in the dirt and steadied the child’s leg to help him get a hit. “The other parents were laughing, but I said, ‘My dad did it 35 years ago, and it still works,’” said Nace.
Friends and classmates who would like to join the Nace family in honoring Barry’s life and career by making a gift to the Barry J. Nace Scholarship can do so online at www.raise.psu.edu/DickinsonLaw or by mailing a check, payable to Penn State University and with “Nace Scholarship” in the memo line, to Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Penn State Dickinson Law, Lewis Katz Hall, 150 S. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013.