Law School Honors Class of 2014 at 126th Commencement Exercises
Dean David Wippman, Provost Arlene Carney, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, David McMillan (’87)
MAY 20, 2014—The University of Minnesota Law School held its 126th commencement ceremony May 17 at the newly renovated Northrop Memorial Auditorium. Law School Dean David Wippman welcomed the Class of 2014, their families and friends, and several special guests: University of Minnesota Regent David McMillan (’87), executive vice president of Minnesota Power; Arlene Carney, the University's vice provost for faculty and academic affairs; and the keynote speaker, United States Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
In his opening remarks, Dean Wippman offered the wisdom of an eclectic group of sages, from Shakespeare to Stephen Colbert, from Yogi Berra to President Obama. He touched on themes of personal vision, personal responsibility, and self-reliance, as well as on the importance of the law in shaping the society we all share. "You will soon be officers of the court," he told the graduates. "People's livelihoods—and sometimes, perhaps, people's lives—will depend on the choices you make…. As you move forward, I hope you will periodically ask yourself two questions: Does what you do further justice? Does what you do make you happy? If you can answer yes to both questions, you're on a good path."
Craig Roen (’87), Dean David Wippman, Jean M. Sanderson, Brad Clary (’75)
Having introduced the members of the Law School faculty, Dean Wippman moved on to present the annual Stanley V. Kinyon Teaching Awards for Excellence in Education, established by family and friends in honor of the late Prof. Stanley V. Kinyon (’33), a recognized commercial law scholar and member of the Law School faculty for 40 years. This year’s awards were given to:
Brad Clary (’75): Overall Teacher
of the Year
Jean M. Sanderson: Clinical Teacher
of the Year
Craig Roen (’87): Adjunct Teacher
of the Year
Back row: Minne Bosma, Jacob Vandelist;
Middle row: Melba Melton, Kirsten Selvig, John Sullivan
Front row: Ruth Lane, Katharine Tace James
Three special student awards also were presented at the commencement ceremonies. Katharine Tace James and Melba Melton, co-chairs of the Commencement Committee, presented two of the awards, whose recipients were selected by their classmates for exceptional contributions inside and outside the classroom during the three years of study.
Kirsten Selvig was honored with the Outstanding Contribution Award. As a 1L, Kirsten participated in the Asylum Law Project and spent the following summer interning with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps in San Diego. During her 2L year, Kirsten volunteered with the public defender's office in Shakopee, Minn., and worked as a research assistant to Professor JaneAnne Murray. She received a Human Rights Fellowship for her 2L summer, traveling overseas to London to work with an NGO providing legal advocacy and research for torture victims worldwide. As a 3L, Kirsten was active in several student organizations, including the American Constitution Society, Theatre of the Relatively Talentless, and the mock trial team. She also worked part-time at the Minneapolis criminal-defense firm Brockton Hunter, advocating on behalf of veterans caught up in the criminal justice system, and interned at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota. Kirsten was a member of the Minnesota Journal of International Law and her article on marine conservation was published in the journal's spring 2013 edition.
The Excellence in Public Service Award went to Ruth Lane for efforts that included work with the Asylum Law Project, helping disadvantaged persons obtain asylum; with AccountAbility Minnesota, helping low-income people file their tax returns; and with the Bolton Refuge House, a domestic violence shelter, where she served as a law clerk advocating on behalf of domestic abuse survivors. Ruth also spent two years as a law clerk with the Minnesota Tax Court and as a student attorney in the Tax Clinic. During her 3L year, she was a Tax Clinic director and a Moot Court teaching director. Ruth served on the board of OutLaw during her three years at the Law School, and she volunteered with Pfund, an organization that provides funding to LGBT individuals and organizations in the Minnesota area. She also volunteered her accounting expertise for a small local café that oversees the Trans Youth Support Network.
Dean Wippman presented the third special student award—the William B. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service, whose recipient is selected by a faculty committee. The award honors the Law School's fifth dean and 28-year faculty member for his dedication in enriching the curriculum, attracting leading scholars, and sharing his gift for teaching. This year's Lockhart Award was given to Jacob Vandelist, whose accomplishments include top grades, honors in legal writing, serving as editor-in-chief of the Minnesota Law Review, and contributing more than 400 hours of volunteer legal service through the Asylum Law Project. Jake also did summer work with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and helped edit the second edition of Prof. Dale Carpenter's groundbreaking book Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas. He will clerk with the Honorable Diana Murphy on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Dean Wippman also called attention to numerous other students who were recognized for participation in journals, moot courts, and other activities at a special ceremony and reception on May 16.
Tace James announced that the class of 2014 will continue the 3L Pledge Drive established four years ago by making annual financial contributions to the Law School for the next three years. This gift means that one person from the class of 2014 will receive a $5,000 fellowship sponsored by the Advancement Office to engage in public interest work. In honor of the class of 2014's generosity, the Law School will fund the installation of full-spectrum lights in a student area of the subplaza in Mondale Hall.
LL.M. Class of 2014 Graduation Address
This year's LL.M. class of 67 students from 20 countries selected Minne Bosma to deliver a graduation address. Bosma is from the Netherlands, where he received his master's degree in tax law from Tilburg University. At the Law School, he focused on human rights law while interning at the Advocates for Human Rights and the University of Minnesota's Human Rights Center. He has received a Human Rights Fellowship to work at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In reflecting on the year he and his fellow LL.M. students spent at the Law School, Bosma spoke of the group's camaraderie, of how its members learned to overcome stereotypes and develop deep friendships, to embrace the reality that "we are all human beings…and no one of us has the patent on truth in life." Bosma said he appreciated Americans for their "hard-working attitude" and for "the faith [they] put in in unknown men and women arriving from all over the world to become part of America and contribute to it." He praised the warmth and welcoming spirit of the Law School's professors, students, and staff, as well as the rigor and relevance of the curriculum, and he closed by urging his fellow LL.M graduates to use their "intelligence, skills and precious time to make this world a better place for all of us."
J.D. Class of 2014 Graduation Address
John Sullivan was chosen by his J.D. classmates to deliver the 2014 graduation address. A native of St. Cloud, Minn., he is a 2008 graduate of Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn. Before enrolling at the Law School, John worked as a sportswriter for the Washington Nationals. As a J.D. student, he focused in the areas of corporate litigation, securities law and criminal law. Following his 1L year, he spent the summer working at the Hastings (Minn.) Public Defender's Office and assisted with shutting down the error-riddled St. Paul police crime lab. After his 2L year, John worked as a summer law clerk at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota. In his address, he spoke about leadership—not only as it is practiced by those in traditional positions of power, but leadership as a habit of mind and character, leadership as an act of "inspiring people to maximize their own potential." This "quiet leadership," John said, could be found throughout the class of 2014, through book drives and blood drives, the thousands of hours volunteered through the Minnesota Justice Foundation, Diversity Weeks programs, TORT performances, and countless other examples. He offered his classmates three pieces of advice for their future life journeys:
Fail once a day. Remember the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, he said; they always brought tools and spare parts because they knew they would crash. "When you tumble—and you will—know you have the strength to stand back up and the tools to repair yourself."
- Live naked—another way of saying, Be human. "I challenge you in everything you do to always ask yourself, 'What is my heart telling me?' If your compass is oriented towards your heart, instead of what you will receive, you will be living naked."
- Think like a child. "When you're a kid, you are your best friend and the world is full of endless opportunities. Then, as you get older, the world tells you to doubt your own capabilities and you become your worst enemy. Be your best friend and your dreams will become a reality."
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
The commencement address was given by United States Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. The holder of an A.B. in international relations and political science from Brown University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.P.P. in public policy from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Perez has spent his entire career in public service. He was the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County (Md.) Council; headed the state of Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, where he enforced a wide range of consumer rights laws; served as special counsel to the late Senator Edward Kennedy; directed the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and served nearly four years as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, overseeing its efforts to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all who live in the United States. He also was a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, and he has taught at the George Washington School of Public Health.
Perez's lively address combined personal history with a call for the graduates to dedicate themselves to justice and responsibility. He spoke of losing his father at the age of 12, of how that experience led him to embrace "the fierce urgency of now." He picked up on John Sullivan's theme of failure and its importance in developing character and wisdom. "Wisdom is attained by refusing to play it safe," he said. "Wisdom comes from getting the door slammed in your face…. The only real failures in life are the failure to try or the failure to learn from your experiences."
Perez reminded the graduates that members of the legal profession have a historic duty to work to advance justice for all. "We can build a society where there is more access to justice, where your professional responsibility is translated into concrete results and concrete progress," he said. Sometimes, he acknowledged, Americans' attachment to the ideal of rugged individualism, of making one's own way in the world, can get in the way of this work. But it need not be so. "If you blow out your neighbor's candle, it won't make yours shine any brighter," he said. "When you help to empower people, and light those candles, and give them opportunity, then we all shine."
TORT singers Tracy Hoyos-Lopez (’15) and Robin Lehninger (’14)
After remarks on behalf of the Board of Regents, Regent McMillan conferred degrees on the J.D. and LL.M. graduates, who had selected Professors Ruth Okediji and Brad Clary and Director of International and Graduate Programs Khary Hornsby (’05) to present their diplomas. Dean Wippman invited graduates and guests to a reception on the Northrop Mall and Plaza, and the commencement ceremonies concluded with the singing of "Hail, Minnesota!" led by Robin Lehninger (’14) and Tracy Hoyos-Lopez (’15). The St. Anthony Brass Quintet provided accompaniment and departing procession music.