‘One-of-a-kind’ UT law grad honored with memorial scholarship fund

Betty BeanFeature, Inside 640

Everyone knew Spenser Powell was brilliant: as valedictorian of the University of Tennessee College of Law’s Class of 2017 he piled up more academic honors than can be listed on this page. He was executive editor of the law review, a moot court standout, and a constitutional scholar.


But there was much more to him than smarts. He was kind and generous and funny and never too busy to help a friend or a colleague or anyone who needed a helping hand.

He was 28 when he died while participating in a half marathon in Memphis, his hometown. He collapsed 200 yards from the finish line and was pronounced dead three days later, on May 29, without regaining consciousness.

Nathaniel Shelso was Spenser’s roommate in undergraduate school at UT. They both stayed in Knoxville after they graduated, and they both worked downtown. They would meet up for lunch and took a couple of vacations together. They got to know each other’s families and remained close after Shelso moved back to Memphis.

He was spending the weekend with his girlfriend in a North Georgia cabin when he got word that Spenser was in the hospital. They drove back to Knoxville, left for Memphis the next morning, and were with his family when Spenser was declared dead. Because he is an organ donor, he has continued to give after his death. And now, Shelso and other friends and family members have found another way to honor him – the Spenser F. Powell Memorial Law Scholarship.

“The scholarship fund has multiple founders – two of the sponsors were also roommates, and his mother is a founder as well,” Shelso said. He knows his friend would approve.

“Spenser was a brilliant student but he was also the kind of person, if you were going out of town, he’d stop by your house and get the garbage cans in,” Shelso said. “He was just a great person, and never hesitated to help anybody he could.”

The scholarship fund is being managed by the East Tennessee Foundation, where their friend Samantha Amick is employed. The initial goal is $25,000, which will be used to help a first year UT law student. If enough money is raised, the award could be covered to fund succeeding years.

Info or to donate, go here.

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