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Congratulations to Class of 2007!

Memories, laughs, congratulations, and words of advice went on stage at the Northrop Memorial Auditorium the morning of May 12. The event was the 119th Commencement ceremony for the University of Minnesota Law School and the final assembly for the Class of 2007.

Co-dean Fred L. Morrison got the event under way with a welcome to students, faculty, family, and friends and introductions of his co-dean Guy-Uriel E. Charles, other speakers and dignitaries, and faculty members. He then turned his remarks to the class of approximately 225 J.D. graduates and 21 LL.M. graduates.

Speakers' comments
Morrison summarized the "habits of mind" the faculty hopes to have cultivated in the 2007 and all classes: a healthy skepticism, precision in analysis, and a sense of professional responsibility. Their education in law confers a special power, he told the class, one they must use wisely. "Represent your clients diligently, but also remember that as possessors of the special power of the law, you also have an obligation to protect the poor, the weak, and the oppressed," Morrison said.

Presenting the Commencement Address was Edward Toussaint, Jr., Chief Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals since 1995 and a person Morrison said "has a deep interest in and understanding of legal education." Toussaint spoke about respecting and valuing people beyond their job title, culture, or situation. He described taking a quiz in his early law school days that ended with the question, "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" When asked whether the question would count toward a grade, the professor answered, "Absolutely. In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant." Toussaint said he had not known the answer, but he learned it and has never forgotten the lesson of "Dorothy."

The J.D. Class Graduation Address was delivered by Sarah J. Vokes, introduced by Morrison as "an engaged member of the Law School community" for her public service, student instructor, international advocacy, and impressive academic work. Vokes commented on the transformation she saw take place as she and her fellow first-year students became professionals who now read cases, think, and analyze problems like lawyers. She encouraged her classmates to use their law degree to serve the values that first inspired them to go to law school.

Maurits A. Steinebach was selected by his fellow foreign law graduates to give the LL.M. Class Graduation Address. As Morrison explained, Steinebach plans to return to his hometown of Leverkusen, Germany, to complete required training and take up a practice in international human rights. Steinebach likened the Commencement exercises to the Academy Awards, with 21 star actors from 12 countries. "During the course of the year, everybody's role touched all of the other genres as well," he said, concluding with special thanks to Dorothy Schlesselman, Bree Richards, Dean Meredith McQuaid, Riddhi Jani, and Muria Kruger.

Awards and their recipients
Scott Peterkin, chair of the Student Graduation Committee, treasurer of the Law Council, and a member of the graduating class, presented the Student Awards. Both the Excellence in Public Service Award and the Most Outstanding Contribution to the Class of 2007 Award went to Damon A. Thayer.

Amy Bergquist, editor-in-chief of the Minnesota Law Review, was chosen by a faculty committee to receive the William B. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. "Amy has devoted her scholarship to issues of pressing importance in the field of international human rights," Morrison said, in addition to dedicating herself "to service both within and beyond the Law School."

The Stanley V. Kinyon Teaching Awards recognize and reward excellence in teaching. Six faculty members were honored with the award, which is given in various categories:

  • Professor Allan Erbsen: Teacher of the Year Award
  • Professor Stephen M. Simon: Clinical Teaching Award
  • Professor John Matheson: Senior Teaching Award (for more than 15 years of service)
  • Professor Dale Carpenter: Mid-level Teaching Award (for 5 to 15 years of service)
  • Associate Professor David Stras: Junior Faculty Teaching Award
  • Professor Brad Clary: Special Award for Legal Writing

Class gift
To support the lasting friendships and sense of community they enjoyed as the Class of 2007, graduates dedicated their class gift to formation of a student lounge in the Law School.

Commencement of a life in law
The Class of 2007 chose Professors Ann M. Burkhart and John H. Matheson to present the J.D. graduates. Associate Dean of Administration and International Programs Meredith M. McQuaid presented the LL.M. graduates. University of Minnesota Regent the Honorable Patricia Simmons granted their degrees, and Morrison sent the graduating class into the world with the following thoughts:

"Our Declaration of Independence recognizes the right to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' Our constitution protects 'life, liberty, and property.' With the education you have received and the degree you have earned, you now have the right and, indeed, the obligation to go forth to champion those rights for all."

Activities concluded with an adaptation of the school song, Hail! Minnesota, by the TORT Alumni Quartet, composed of new graduates Joshua L. Colburn, Trevor Scott Helmers, Karin K. Larson, and Jessica Meghan Biehl Molyneaux.

The St. Anthony Brass Quintet, which also opened the ceremonies with a prelude and provided the processional music, supplied recessional music as graduates, faculty, and guests moved to the Northrop Terrace and Mall for a champagne reception.