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40 Under 40 Spotlight: Kira Fonteneau (JD ’05)

Kira Fonteneau (JD ’05) remembers the day like it was yesterday.

“I was sitting in Professor Ron Ellington’s Civil Procedures class as a [first-year law student] at UGA when he called on several members of our class who were unprepared. When he reached the fifth unprepared student, he calmly put down his marker and dismissed the class, telling us that he could not continue unless we were prepared. The class was dumbfounded. The most intense feeling of embarrassment and shame filled the room as we realized how disappointed he was. I will never forget that day – it was the day that I learned the importance of being prepared as a lawyer.”

Fonteneau learned that lesson and hasn’t looked back. The alumna graduated in 2005 from the UGA School of Law and became a litigation associate with Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLP, in Birmingham, Ala. In late 2006, she established The Fonteneau Firm, LLC.

According to Julie Jun, a colleague and friend of Fonteneau’s, “Kira left a comfortable job with a big law firm to open her own shop, which she ran for several years. She was not simply successful, but she made such an impression on her peers, that she was eventually nominated and appointed to the position of public defender for Jefferson County, Ala., where Birmingham is located.”

In January 2013, Fonteneau was appointed to open and run the state of Alabama’s largest public defender office. In this role, she is responsible for recruiting, managing and training 39 attorneys and 29 support staff members.

In her free time, Fonteneau gives back to the Birmingham community. She has served on the American Diabetes Association’s Board of Directors since 2007, the ACLU of Alabama Board of Directors since 2011, and the Holy Family Cristo Rey High School Junior Board of Directors since 2009. She has participated in the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program since 2006.

When asked what advice she would give to UGA students today, the alumna said, “You never know how the detours in life will prepare you for the future, so don’t feel like you have to plan your life in great detail.”

As Birmingham’s first public defender, there was no way Kira Fonteneau could have envisioned her career path to this point. But, she has obviously followed her own advice and found great success in our neighbor state to the west. Congratulations, Kira!

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Alumnus Spotlight: Jack B. Hood (AB ’69, JD ’71)

Jack B. Hood (AB ’69, JD ’71) is a Georgia Bulldog fan, lawyer, author and banjo player.

Proud to be a Double Dawg, he received a degree in international law from the University of Cambridge (Darwin College) in 1972. Jack currently serves as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham. He is currently a member of the Georgia, Alabama and District of Columbia bars. 

Recently, Jack returned from an American Bar Association (ABA) sponsored trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom to attend the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Jack is descended from Saer de Quincey, the first Early of Winchester and one of the 25 barons that forced King John to seal the document in 1215. Saer de Quincey was also a Templar Knight who “took the Cross” and later died on November 3, 1219, while on the Fifth Crusade at the siege of Damietta in Egypt. 

The ceremonies at Runnymede on June 15, 2015, were attended by British royalty and dignitaries from around the world including: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip; William, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Anne; Prime Minister David Cameron; the Archbishop of Canterbury; William Hubbard, President of the ABA; and Loretta Lynch, attorney general of the United States.

Jack and his grandson Walkin 

Jack, his daughter, and grandson attended exclusive events for ABA members at the U.S. Ambassador (Kevin O’Malley) to Ireland’s residence at Deerfield in Phoenix Park, Dublin, and at the U.S. Ambassador (David Barzun) to the UK’s residence at Winfield House in Regent’s Park, London.


England's Prince William 

They visited Darwin College at the University of Cambridge and attended formal dinners and Darwin’s annual formal ball. They also managed to tour Royal Air Force Bases at Duxford, Mildenhall, and Lakenheath with the assistance of a current USAF JAG officer living in Cambridge.

Jack's time at UGA opened many doors for his career as a lawyer, professor, and author. Several of his undergraduate and law professors took a personal interest in his education and motivated Jack to work hard as a member of the legal profession. This ultimately allowed him to make this trip a memorable family event. Those inspirational professors at Georgia included Ed Best in undergraduate school, and Perry Sentell and Dean Rusk at law school.

Learn more about Jack Hood

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Alumnus and longtime supporter brings NASA to campus

Roger Hunter’s (BS ’78, Mathematics) passion for UGA is unmatched by most, and despite living thousands of miles from Athens, his veins are still filled with red and black.

In 2014, the associate director for programs at NASA Ames Research Center in California gave the fall commencement address and a TEDxUGA Talk. This past summer, he hosted UGA President Jere W. Morehead (JD ’80) and other university representatives on a tour of Ames, even surprising them with an image of Uga IX on Mars – the first “earth-being” to visit the surface of the Red Planet.

His commitment to UGA continued this fall when Roger brought two of his NASA colleagues, Roberto Carlino and Jasper Wolfe, to campus to present to and mentor students and faculty on the Friday prior to the UGA vs. South Carolina football game.

(left to right): NASA scientists Jasper Wolfe from Australia, Roberto Carlino from Italy and UGA’s own Roger Hunter from California.

Malcolm Adams, a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Math, arranged for an afternoon lecture in the Miller Learning Center that was open to all students and promoted in STEM classes on campus. The presentation focused on the history and future of the use of Cube-Sats (mini satellites used for space research) from the perspective of the NASA Ames Research Center.

Earlier that day, though, the NASA representatives participated in a seminar/workshop for a group of faculty and students who are planning to build the first UGA CubeSat to gather spectral data off the Georgia coast. The group includes faculty from geography, marine science, physics and math, and 25 to 30 undergraduate students.


Both the students and faculty in attendance were inspired by the exciting, breakthrough technology presented by the visitors, and were appreciative of the first-hand mentoring offered.

Roger Hunter continues to contribute to UGA through his time, expertise and financial support. His involvement is greatly appreciated and can be seen as a stellar example of alumni enriching the learning experience on campus through volunteerism.

If you are interested in mentoring on campus or bringing a special project to UGA students, please email and indicate your interest.

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Alumnus Spotlight: Joey Shonka (BS ’05)

Joey Shonka (BS ’05), a long distance hiker and mountaineer, is trying to become the first person to traverse the entire Andes mountain range on foot. He has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking, which refers to the three major U.S. long distance hiking trails: the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Joey has written the following books about his experiences hiking each of these trails.

"The Darkness in the Light" (about the AT)

"An American Nomad" (about the PCT)

"A Strong West Wind" (about the CDT)


In July 2013, Joey began his attempt to create the first unbroken chain of footsteps across the continent of South America. He started his trek at Cape Froward, the southernmost point on the mainland of South America. As part of his current journey, he has already hiked nearly 5,000 kilometers, crossed parts of the world's third-largest glacier network and summited seven of the highest peaks in the Americas. Joey checks in via a location tracker on his website to keep family, friends and fans updated. Recently, he was spotted near the Rio Vilcanota in Peru. Joey plans to culminate his hike in Columbia, political unrest permitting, around March 2016.

Learn more about Joey and follow his adventures around the world here.

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