At the 2010 Commencement Ceremony, held May 14 at Kingsbury Hall, graduates of the U of U S.J. Quinney College of Law, were encouraged to use their valuable legal education not only to earn a living, but also to make a positive difference in the world. In the words of the Honorable J. Clifford Wallace, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who provided the Commencement Address: “Dealing with law in all its many facets is rewarding in many ways — far more than just financial. You will find that extra reward if your vision is clear and you look for opportunities to give of yourself.”
Other speakers offered similar counsel.
David Pershing, senior vice president at the U, welcomed the capacity crowd of students, families, friends, faculty and staff. After introducing the deans and trustees, he extended personal and institutional congratulations. “Best of all, you’re almost finished. Almost,” he said, to applause and laughter.
Pershing proceeded to recite a list of the graduates’ accomplishments, noting that there had been eight applicants for every seat in the class of approximately 122. Of those graduates, he continued, 40% were women and 16% represented a minority group.
Graduates ranged in age from 23 and upward, Pershing said, and had earned degrees from 40 different universities and in 50 different majors. “We know you are smart, diverse, and well-educated.”
Pershing also challenged students to “make [their] lives count for something. We have given you an excellent education, but I hope you will use that to make a positive difference in the world.”
Hiram Chodosh, dean and professor of law, called on students to build on their accomplishments, and to recall those who enabled them to pursue a legal education, from family and friends to teachers and mentors. He also praised graduates’ resilience in the face of challenges ranging from debt loads to a slowly recovering
job market: “You have taught us that a crisis is only as bad as our response.”
Noting that a student body of fewer than 400 students had contributed 40,000 hours of public service, from cutting-edge research in bioscience and law to helping recent immigrants, Chodosh continued: “We’re not talking about an assembly line of self-serving ambition; we’re talking about dedication to improving the human condition.”
In his closing remarks, he stressed the importance of civic engagement and urged students to “connect the small steps to larger purposes.”
“I am deeply in your debt for what I have learned from you,” he said. “Remember what it means to graduate from the U for your past and for your future.”
Christopher Peterson, associate dean for Academic Affairs and professor of law, presented the Peter W. Billings Excellence in Teaching Awards to Randy Dryer for adjunct faculty and Daniel Medwed for full-time faculty. He also presented the faculty scholarship award to Debora Threedy and the Faculty Service Award to Robert Adler. The College’s techology team received the Barbara MacFarlane Award.
Student graduation speakers, Nicole Salazar-Hall and Daniel Ryan Staker, also addressed the crowd.
Salazar-Hall discussed the “fear and anxiety” of beginning a career, and recalled the uncertainty she experienced the first day of law school. “Law is incredibly durable, and so are we,” she stressed. In retrospect, she said, “The fear of walking in for the first time is laughable.”
Staker recounted graduates’ shared experiences: “Frustration and tedium have been near-constant companions,” he said. “Yet this provided a crucible that helped shape our character. Today we are . . . the wonderful, bright, strong, capable people we always hoped we would be. We are assertive people, and our family and friends can attest that we do not always make the best company,” he deadpanned.
Click here to read Nicole’s and Daniel’s speeches.
Described by Dean Chodosh as “one of our country’s most distinguished jurists,” the Honorable J. Clifford Wallace, provided the commencement address.
In a speech that intermingled themes of globalization and expanding personal borders, Wallace described his modest upbringing, as well as the role reading and personal service to others played in shaping his life. A World War II veteran, Wallace returned from the Navy to earn a degree in political science.
But that was not enough, he explained to the assembled crowd. “I wanted to study international relations.” Thereafter, he proceeded to study law, all the while developing an ever-broader world view: “A small world often results from an inordinately inflated view of self-worth,” he said. “That is, the small world circulates around me and only me, so I am the most important. I saw some of that in me. It changed when I adopted a belief that my importance is relevant only in the larger, more complex view of life’s purposes.”
Wallace also stressed developing compassion for others. As his world view broadened, he said, “I became concerned about people who suffered through no cause of their own,” pointing to examples of starvation, pain, sickness, and injustice.
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said, “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.”
Finally, Wallace left the graduates with two pieces of advice: “My only suggestion is that you not make your world so small that you miss the greatest blessings life can give you,” he said.
“You should choose wisely how you will live and what you will contribute. In the end, it may be more important to you what you have given of yourself, than what legal fees you have earned.” he concluded.
Click here to read Wallace’s Commencement address.