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Law School Honors Class of 2011 at Commencement

Provost, Dean, Speaker, Regent

Provost Tom Sullivan, Dean David Wippman, Former Vice President Walter Mondale (’56), Regent Richard Beeson

MAY 17, 2011—Hundreds of law students officially became lawyers on May 14 as the University of Minnesota Law School conducted its 123rd commencement ceremonies.

Law School Dean David Wippman introduced special guests and thanked them for taking part in the day. University Regent Richard Beeson, President and CEO of Park Midway Bank in St. Anthony Park since 1995, conferred the degrees. Tom Sullivan, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and the University's chief academic officer since 2004, represented the Central Administration at the ceremonies.

In his remarks to the graduating class, Dean Wippman told graduates that they stand on the threshold of not only a career but also a calling, quoting T.S. Elliot: "In my end is my beginning." Wippman noted that despite facing the greatest recession since the 1930s, the Class of 2011 has handled the challenge with grace and dignity, and that he has confidence they all will thrive and prosper.

"We have done our utmost to provide you one of the finest legal educations anywhere," he said. "We give you one final assignment: Use that education wisely."

Faculty Awards

Dean Wippman presented the annual Stanley V. Kinyon Teaching Awards for Excellence in Education, named for the late Prof. Stanley V. Kinyon (’33), a 40-year member of the Law School faculty and a recognized scholar in commercial law. Faculty members honored with the Kinyon Award for 2011 were:

Thomas F. Cotter: Chaired Teacher of the Year
Stephen Meili: Clinical Teacher of the Year
Amy B. Monahan: Tenured Teacher of the Year
Charles N. Nauen (’80): Adjunct Teacher of the Year

Dean Wippman also presented Prof. Dale Carpenter with the 2011 Dr. Matthew Stark Award for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which is given to a faculty member or student who has demonstrated distinguished service, writing, teaching, involvement, or public leadership in civil liberties, civil rights, public education, or social justice. Dr. Stark has dedicated his professional and community service life to ensuring that the benefits of our democratic society extend to all of our citizens.

Student Awards and Class Gift

Three student awards and the class gift were presented at the commencement ceremonies. Many additional accolades and awards were presented at a special ceremony and reception held May 13.

Each year, the graduating class selects recipients for two of the awards on the basis of outstanding contributions both inside and outside the classroom during their three years of law study.

The Excellence in Public Service Award was presented by Adam Tomczik, a 3L Law Council representative, co-president of the Law School Democrats, lead student director of the International Law Moot Court, and a managing editor on the Journal of Labor and Employment Law.

Steve C. Schmidt was chosen to receive the Excellence in Public Service Award for exemplary commitment to public service at the Law School and the community at large. He volunteered for the HomeLine Tenant Resource Hotline and the Volunteer Lawyers' Network and worked for the Minnesota Disability Law Center and the Immigrant Law Center. Schmidt represented asylum claimants in Miami and worked with the Public Defender's office in New Orleans. He also was a law clerk at the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, co-president of the Minnesota Justice Foundation student chapter, and a performer in all three Theatre of the Relatively Talentless (TORT) productions during his time at the Law School.

The Most Outstanding Contribution Award was presented by Matthew Webster, a two-year Law Council representative, a Humphrey Fulbright Fellow research scholar, student director with the Immigration & Human Rights Clinic, vice-president of the Asylum Law Project and the Minnesota Justice Foundation, and symposium editor on the Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice.

Chelsea Brennan was honored with the Most Outstanding Contribution Award for exceptional involvement in academic programs, participation and leadership in extracurricular activities, and enhancement of the Law School experience. As a 1L, she raised enough funding for the Asylum Law Project to offset travel expenses and offer a 1L summer public interest scholarship. As a 2L and 3L, she served on the Law Council's Budget Committee and Graduation Committee. She also was a legal writing student instructor and a lead managing editor on the Minnesota Law Review, where she applied her publishing background to ensure that its six annual issues went to press with every source cited and every cross-reference verified.

A new tradition for the class gift was introduced by Catherine Kedzuf, the 2010-11 Law Council president, co-president of the Women's Law Student Association, VIP liaison for TORT, and a director of the Environmental Sustainability Energy Policy Clinic. Rather than making donations toward a gift, the Class of 2011 pledged to contribute financially to the Law School for the next five years. In recognition of the efforts and significant pledges made, the Office of Advancement contributed funds for a piece of artwork in the Law School dedicated to the Class of 2011 and a postgraduate fellowship for a Class of 2011 graduate to pursue public interest work.

Class of 2011 Gift to Dean Wippman

Christopher Luehr, Dean David Wippman, Catherine Kedzuf

Along with Christopher Luehr, Kedzuf also presented Dean Wippman with a surprise gift from the Class of 2011. The graduates put together a framed collage of memorable photos of Wippman, the students and others taken over the last three years. One of the photos included was a shot taken of the whole class at their 2008 orientation. Kedzuf said, "Actions speak louder than words. And while Dean Wippman has always expressed a desire to meet and connect with students, his commitment to student learning is evident in his efforts to meet with the students."

Dean Wippman then presented the William B. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. Lockhart was the Law School’s fifth dean and a faculty member for 28 years. He championed the obligation of legal scholars to provide societal leadership and the deep commitment to community service that has become one of the Law School's hallmark values.

Cicely Rosemary Miltich was selected to receive the 2011 Lockhart Award. A Stone Scholar, she won legal writing and best oralist honors as a 1L and built on those skills as a legal writing instructor and member of a moot court team that advanced to regional semifinals. Throughout, she maintained top grades and won multiple book awards for the highest grade in courses. Miltich volunteered at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, interned at the Center for Homicide Research, and worked as a clinical student at the Federal Public Defenders' Office. She was treasurer of the Law School Democrats, co-founder of the new Law and Policy Association, and an active member of the Women in Law Students Association.

Class of 2011 Speakers

Carla Wessolek

Carla Wessolek

The LL.M. Class of 2011 was composed of 36 students representing 22 countries. Carla Wessolek of Berlin was chosen by her peers to deliver the LL.M. Graduation Address. She received her law degree from Humboldt University in Berlin and also studied at the University of Sydney in Australia. Interested in international arbitration and international business, she will begin clerking at the civil court in Berlin in August.

Wessolek noted that while studying in a foreign country can be a dream come true, many challenges accompany the opportunity, such as learning in a foreign language. However, she said, speaking for her classmates as well as herself, "We all agree that it was one of the best decisions in our lives to come here. It was a unique and amazing chance to study here at the prestigious Minnesota Law School, and we are joyful about what we learned during the past year."

She thanked the many people involved in her experience, including the J.D. students, her classmates and their families and friends, and most of all, the faculty. "The professors at this law school do an outstanding job. I have never in my life met people who love so much what they are doing and who are so passionate about it," Wessolek said. "You exceeded any expectations that I had before coming here."

Kate Baxter-Kauf

Kate Baxter-Kauf

The J.D. Class of 2011 chose Kate Baxter-Kauf to deliver the Graduation Address. Before law school, she worked at Macalester, coached high school and college debate teams, and established debate programs in urban high schools. At the Law School, she received legal-writing and best-oralist honors and was an orientation leader, co-treasurer of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and an articles editor for the Minnesota Law Review. She worked at Lockridge, Grindal, Nauen and in the Antitrust Division for the Department of Justice’s Summer Law Intern Program in Washington, D.C. This fall she will return to Lockridge, Grindal, Nauen.

In her address, Baxter-Kauf noted that she and her classmates are different now than when they began law school three years ago. Although they will all go their separate ways after commencement, she said, they will all carry along many of the experiences they shared over the last three years.

Her five favorite memories of her Law School years: the relaxing time immediately after 1L finals were completed and grades not yet released, learning how to surf the Internet during class yet correctly answer questions when called on, the annual fall appearance of the Law School turkey, TORT and all that comes with the tradition of combining legal terms and music, and the realization that commencement is the beginning of the Class of 2011's opportunity to change lives and have "a team to root for."

Commencement Address

Walter Mondale

Former Vice President Walter Mondale (’56)

After receiving a standing ovation, Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale (’56) delivered the Class of 2011 Commencement Address. Mondale received his B.A. in political science at the University of Minnesota in 1951, then enlisted in the army during the Korean War. He entered the Law School on the G.I. Bill, worked on the Minnesota Law Review, and in 1955-56, clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. Gallagher.

Mondale became the youngest state attorney general in the nation in 1960. He served as a U.S. Senator from 1964-1976 and was a driving force behind the Fair Housing Act, reformation of the Senate cloture rule, and the Church Committee's investigation of FBI and CIA abuses of power. When Jimmy Carter chose Mondale as his running mate in the 1976 presidential election, Mondale accepted on the condition that the role be substantive, not merely ceremonial. In securing full access to the President and key meetings, Mondale is credited with creating the modern vice presidency. He was a trusted advisor to the president until January 1981. In his own bid for president in 1984, Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, the first woman to be named on a major party ticket. After losing the election, he returned to Minnesota to practice law with Dorsey & Whitney.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Mondale Ambassador to Japan. He served for three years, promoting expansion of educational exchanges between the two nations, attending APEC summit meetings, and helping negotiate several U.S.-Japan agreements, including a resolution to the controversial U.S. military presence in Okinawa. In 2010, Mondale published some of his insights from a long, distinguished political career in The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics.

In his Commencement Address, Mondale commented on the evolution of American courts, from representing interests of the crown in colonial days to being instruments of justice independent from government today. Great lawyers led implementation of the nation's fundamental principles and still are "expected to take care that justice flourishes here," he said. There is a lot to do, he continued. "We are facing a yawning justice gap."

The lack of legal protection for some should concern us all, Mondale said, referring to the now-famous Gideon case, involving an indigent man tried without counsel and sentenced to five years in prison for a felonious petty misdemeanor. "The Gideon story plays out hundreds of times over in states across the country," Mondale said. Civil cases, too, are ending unjustly with the disappearance of funds for civil legal assistance and with amendments that undercut the ability of public lawyers to defend their clients, he said. "If we want all Americans to believe in civility, to trust our system for peacefully resolving issues, to eschew the violent and corrupt, if we want every American to believe that he or she is as fully an American as is any other American, that their dignity and respect are fully honored," Mondale said, "then we will stand for justice."


TORT Singers

TORT singers Justin Goetz, Holly Overgaard, Matt Roberts, Laura Vannelli, Christopher Luehr

Once all degrees had been conferred, Dean Wippman gave the new lawyers a phrase to take with them: "ave atque vale—hail and farewell." The commencement ceremonies concluded with the singing of "Hail, Minnesota!," led by the Law School's TORT singers Justin Goetz, Christopher Luehr, Holly Overgaard, Matt Roberts, and Laura Vannelli and accompanied by St. Anthony Brass. Immediately following, the graduates and guests enjoyed a reception in Mariucci Arena.