The commencement ceremony at the Kimmel Center on May 18 paid homage to a wide array of contributions the Kline School of Law, its students, alumni, faculty and leaders have made in the 10 years since the school was launched.
The Class of 2017 featured 168 graduates receiving LLM, MLS and JD degrees, including the first cohort of Global Access JD students, who are internationally educated attorneys who earned JD degrees that will enable them to sit for the bar exam and practice law in the U.S.
Philadelphia City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante urged the graduates to be kind, to resist following the herd and not to underestimate the power of a law degree.
“There’s never been a time when being a lawyer was so important,” Tulante said, alluding to successful legal challenges that have been mounted against President Trump’s executive orders seeking to restrict travel to the U.S. by citizens of some Muslim-majority countries and to penalize sanctuary cities.
“Our democracy only works when people represented by lawyers are able to hold officials to account,” Tulante said, recounting his own family’s struggle to escape oppression in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1983.
Drexel President John Fry said members of the Class of 2017 have already begun to influence the world around them.
“You have already made a difference,” Fry said, noting the thousands of hours of pro bono service students completed, in addition to co-op and clinic placements in which they gained hands-on experience in legal practice.
The ’17 graduates all have qualities that will not appear in any of the celebratory photographs of the day, Dean Daniel Filler said.
“You put in the labor, you put in the passion, you put in the commitment,” Filler said. “If there is one thing that separates a Kline Law graduate from everyone else, it is your grit; your resilience and grit. And unfortunately, the iPhone has yet to be able to take a picture of grit. That part of the picture is never going to be visible on Facebook.”
Citing Drexel founder Anthony J. Drexel’s legacy of making education accessible for thousands of poor students, class speaker Autumn Gramigna exhorted her classmates to answer “the call of service.”
“Answer the call for all the children across this great land, so that they may grow and prosper in an America that is more just, more free and more inclusive,” Gramigna said. “Answer the call for the hard working parents out there struggling and striving to build a better life for themselves and their families. And answer the call for those who are different––and despite all the debate and controversy––deserve to be treated like everybody else.”
Attorney Thomas R. Kline, for whom the law school is named, offered an appraisal of the school based on his service on its advisory board.
“I have watched the law school grow,” Kline said. “We are in the forefront of American legal education. We influence the discourse every day.”
Dean Emeritus Roger Dennis, who stepped down in December, received an honorary degree for steering the law school through its inaugural decade, recruiting faculty, building academic programs and securing accreditation.
“This university owes you an enormous debt,” Kline told Dennis. “It will never fully be repaid.”