- Maurer School of Law Academy of Law Alumni Fellows (1989)
- Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1987)
- National Academies (1981)
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Guggenheim Fellow (1957)
Val Nolan, Jr. was an eminent ornithologist, Professor Emeritus of Law and Biology, and founder of a tradition of excellence in the study of birds at Indiana University where he trained 21 Ph.D. students. His specialties were the ecology and behavior of birds, principally passeriforms. His research interests included population biology, mating systems and parental behavior, natal dispersal and the development of site attachment in both migratory and nonmigratory passerines, dominance, and differential migration and the differential winter distribution that such migration produces. He worked almost entirely with free-living birds.
After graduating from Indiana University in 1941 with an AB in history, Nolan worked as a Deputy U.S. Marshall before joining the Secret Service. He began working in the Washington, D.C., field office, but soon joined the White House detail providing security for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1942, he guarded the president on a nationwide "secret" tour of defense installations.
Later that year, Nolan left the Secret Service to join the Navy, where he served in intelligence as a Japanese language expert. He also spoke Latin, Classical Greek, German, and some French. Initially, he was assigned to an amphibious group and interrogated Japanese prisoners. He was then assigned to the railroad section as an interpreter, working to determine how successful the bombing of the Japanese railroads had been.
Nolan followed in his father's legal footsteps, entering law school in 1946. On his way to graduating first in his class, Nolan served as editor of the Indiana Law Journal and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Order of the Coif, and Phi Delta Phi. He then joined the Indiana Law faculty, teaching Property, Wills, Land Titles, and Conflicts for the next 36 years until his retirement in 1985. During that time, he served as a mentor and model for countless law students.
In addition to his legal expertise, Nolan also became a world-renowned ornithologist. In 1957, he was appointed a research scholar in the biology department and later began teaching a course for a faculty member on sabbatical. In the late 1960s, while already a tenured professor in the Law School, he was given a joint appointment with biology.
Nolan served as acting dean of the Law School in 1976 and again in 1980, when he helped persuade the Indiana Legislature to expand the Law Building.