On May 15, the law school’s 11th commencement ceremony celebrated 172 graduates’ accomplishments, recognized the efforts on their behalf by families, friends and law school faculty and acknowledged the hard work that still lies ahead.
Work alone does not guarantee success, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone said in her address. But, Beetlestone said, combining a commitment to excellence and recognizing that achievement is a team sport will enable hard-working professionals to capitalize on opportunities that come their way.
Drexel President John Fry presented Judge Beetlestone with an honorary doctor of laws degree, noting that she began her career as a journalist with the BBC, CNN and NBC10 before earnning her own JD, becoming a partner at Schnader Harrison, a shareholder at Hangley Aronchick and general counsel for the Philadelphia School District. Since being appointed to the federal bench in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Fry added, Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction that prevented the Trump administration from barring a woman’s access to free birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act.
“At the center of all historic legal battles are the role of judicial independence and the rule of law,” Fry said. “So it is fitting that we have a federal judge here today who was thrust into this historic legal fight.”
Law school benefactor Tom Kline said the graduates are poised to have an important effect on those they represent and that their skills and dedication to the law are sorely needed.
“Now more than ever, we need lawyers to protect our liberties,” Kline said. “You’re it.”
Dean Daniel Filler said the graduates will have an impact as partners at massive firms, as compliance directors and as public interest lawyers.
“Some of you are going to run for office and lead this state and this nation in the century ahead,” Filler said. “The Class of 2019 is going to change the shape of history. We know this already. We can see it.”
The expansive Kimmel Center space in which the ceremony was held was too small to accommodate all of the graduates’ stories past and future, Filler said, commending them for their resilience and grit.
“Never underestimate what you have all achieved,” he said.
Alumni Council President Ryan Nolan welcomed the Class of 2019 to the ranks of Kline alumni, whom she said are “more active, more passionate, more adventurous, more eclectic” and better prepared for legal practice than graduates of other law schools.
Addressing her own classmates, Jordan Laporta said that as much as they learned in law school and as competent as they’ve become, “we don’t have all the answers.”
Laporta exhorted her peers to question what they don’t understand, to use the powerful tools they’ve acquired and to challenge that which they don’t believe is just.
Building upon a law school tradition, members of the Student Bar Association recognized numerous members of the faculty and staff for contributions that helped them reach the finish line of a grueling journey.
Professor David S. Cohen received the Jennifer Rosato Excellence in the Classroom Award.
- Professor Gwen Roseman Stern received the Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III Outstanding Contribution to the Law School Community Award.
Professor Tabatha Abu El-Haj received the inaugural Dean Roger J. Dennis Distinction in Teaching Award.
Director of Academic Affairs and Student Services Theresa Gallo and Administrative Assistant Donna Strunk received the inaugural Mary M. McGovern Exceptional Contribution to the Student Experience Award.
Director of Admissions and Diversity Initiatives Danielle Boardley received the inaugural DiveIN Champion of Diversity Award.
The ceremony began and ended with soaring vocal performances by graduate Savannah Merceus, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and graduate Alisa Thammavong, who sang “Forever Young.”