Law School Honors Class of 2017 at 129th Commencement Exercises
The University of Minnesota Law School held its 129th commencement ceremony May 13 at Northrop Memorial Auditorium. Dean Garry Jenkins welcomed the J.D., LL.M., and M.S.P.L. classes, their families and friends, and several special guests: Cathy Haukedahl (’79), executive director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, David McMillan (’87), a member of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and executive vice president at Minnesota Power, and University Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson.
To begin his introductory remarks, Dean Jenkins asked the parents, spouses, partners, and children of the graduates to stand and be recognized for their loving support. Then he reflected on the momentous day: “I think commencements are emotional events, in part because there are few occasions in life where we actually stop the everyday hustle and bustle and actually pause to remember the past, to savor the moment, and to reflect on the future.”
That reflection is well-deserved because of the accomplishment of students during their time at Mondale Hall. “Law school is no easy task at all,” Dean Jenkins said. “You had doctrine to learn, various modes of analysis to master, new skills to develop; you had seemingly endless reading. Socratic exchanges with professors—some you nailed and others you barely escaped.”
Looking ahead, Dean Jenkins reminded graduates that at times of seismic social change — economic turmoil, social movements, and war — attorneys have important roles to play. “Lawyers were a key part of helping societies and citizens deal with those changes, seize opportunities presented by those changes,” he said. “They even caused some of the changes.”
Added Dean Jenkins, “History also tells us you will play a role in changes we will see over the decades to come.”
Having introducing the members of the Law School faculty, Dean Jenkins moved on to present the annual Stanley V. Kinyon Professor of the Year Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Counseling, established by family and friends in honor of the late Professor 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:
Kristin Hickman: Stanley V. Kinyon Tenured Teacher of the Year Award, for work as a highly influential voice in the fields of administrative law and federal tax administration. Her articles have been published in several journals, including Columbia Law Review and Georgetown Law Review.
Oren Gross: Stanley V. Kinyon Tenured Teacher of the Year Award, for work as an outstanding scholar, superb teacher, and an internationally recognized expert in the areas of international law and national security law. He has received numerous academic accolades, including a Fulbright scholarship and a fellowship from the British Academy.
Professor Ben Casper Sanchez (’97): Stanley V. Kinyon Clinical Teacher of the Year Award in Practice, for work as director of the James H. Binger Center for New Americans and teacher of the Federal Immigration Litigation Clinic. During his four years on the faculty, students have tackled cutting-edge and difficult cases.
Left to right: Professor Ben Casper Sanchez (’97), University of Minnesota Regent David McMillan (’87), Cathy Haukedahl (’79), executive director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, Dean Garry W. Jenkins, Karen Hanson, the University of Minnesota’s executive vice president and provost, and Professor Oren Gross.
Two special student awards also were presented at the commencement ceremony. Ryan Riebe presented the student awards, whose recipients were selected by their classmates for exceptional contributions inside and outside the classroom during the three years of study.
The Excellence in Public Service Award was presented to Nadia Anguiano-Wehde. Prior to attending the Law School, Anguiano-Wehde spent six years working as a mechanical design engineer in Rochester, Minn. During her free time, she volunteered at nonprofits dedicated to helping Latino immigrants in southern Minnesota. That experience inspired her to switch careers. As a 1L at the Law School, she clerked at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. As a 2L and 3L, Anguiano-Wehde enrolled in the Federal Immigration Litigation Clinic, where she represented unaccompanied minors and indigent clients. She also organized a trip for Law School students to a massive immigration detention center in Dilley, Texas, logging 15-hour days assisting clients. After graduation, she will clerk for two years for U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in Minnesota and Judge Jane Kelly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Alysha Bohanon was presented with the Most Outstanding Contribution Award, which honors the student who contributed the most to the graduating class through class participation, involvement in academic programs, leadership in extracurricular activities, and enhancement of the Law School experience. As a 2014 graduate of the University’s journalism program, Bohanon is an accomplished writer. As an undergraduate, she tutored other students. She continued that tradition at the Law School, working as a legal writing instructor during her 2L and 3L years and co-teaching a class of first-year students with Professor Chris Soper, director of the legal writing department. Also as a 2L, Bohanon was elected editor-in-chief of the Minnesota Law Review. Her student note, “Tweeting the Police: Balancing Free Speech and Decency on Government-Sponsored Social Media Pages,” won the Burton Distinguished Legal Writing Award. After graduation, Bohanon will clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Mark Hornak for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Dean Jenkins presented the third special student award—the William B. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. The recipient is selected by a faculty committee and 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 Andrew Leiendecker, whose distinguished record includes earning honors in both legal writing and law in practice. He also worked as a research assistant for Professors Oren Gross and Neha Jain and served as a student director of the National Moot Court Competition.
Matt Hart, vice president of the Law Council, announced that the class of 2017 will make financial contributions to the Law School’s Diversity Scholarship Fund. “The class of 2017 hopes our gift will leave a legacy of support for the next generation of law students and of encouragement to the Law School’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” he said.
Minnesota Law Equity and Diversity Award
Three people were chosen to receive the Minnesota Law Equity and Diversity Award, a new award that recognizes those within the Law School community who have made significant contributions to advancing equity and diversity through their work, extracurricular initiatives, and/or other efforts and who promote a welcoming and inclusive climate at the Law School.
Jing Du received a Law Equity and Diversity Award for her work as president and treasurer of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and other activities. Under Du’s leadership, APALSA brought together J.D. and LL.M. students from many countries and cultures to forge personal and professional connections. As a law student, she also devoted hundreds of hours working as a housing, consumer protection, and employment law advocate.
Maher Mahmood also received a Law Equity and Diversity Award for her work as a member of the Law School’s Diversity Committee and the leader of the Muslim Law Students Association. “Maher has lived all the values this award is intended to advance, always with humility and kindness toward others, and with a spirit so courageous that even those closest to her doubt we understand the full cost of the sacrifices she has made for the good of the Law School,” wrote her nominators.
In addition, Nubia Esparza received a Law Equity and Diversity Award for her work as the Law School’s senior coordinator of diversity and equity programs. As a member of the Diversity Committee and advisor to student groups, Esparza has helped implement innovative programming, including the Diversity Book Club and Film Series, Diverse Attorney panels and speakers on legal issues.
LL.M. Class of 2017 Graduation Address
This year’s LL.M. class of 62 students from 20 countries selected Yan Huang to deliver a graduation address. Huang, who grew up in China, received his undergraduate law degree from Dalian Maritime University. After graduation, he studied in Japan for one year, earning a master’s degree in international economic and business law at Kyushu University.
“In China, there is a saying that time flies faster when one feels happy,” Huang remarked. “Indeed, the past academic year is much shorter than we thought.” He noted that LL.M. students faced many challenges at the Law School, including studying in English (a second language for most), linguistic differences, cultural differences, time differences, and homesickness. “However, none of us yielded to these challenges. We all made great achievements and have collected beautiful memories of the past year,” he said.
Huang also noted that LL.M. students were very involved in Law School activities, participating in the Theatre of the Relatively Talentless (TORT), soccer and basketball teams, and pop-up concerts. “Some people said that LL.M. students could not really get involved in Law School activities like J.D. students,” Huang said. “They are wrong. At least in this law school, LL.M. students are part of the family and we made a big difference.”
J.D. Class of 2016 Graduation Address
Mary Heath, a member of the Class of 2017, gave the J.D. address. She served on the Minnesota Law Review as a managing editor, worked as a legal writing instructor, and was frequently spotted giving tours to prospective law students. “I sought a school that would produce, as Dean Jenkins says, lawyer-leaders,” Heath remarked. “Three years later, J.D. (almost!) in hand, I’m pleased to report that I chose the right school.” After highlighting many of the accomplishments of her class, including volunteering with the Asylum Law Project, arguing federal immigration issues before the 8th Circuit, and cite checking until the wee hours of the morning, Heath concluded her speech.
“After today, we will face challenges both in law and in life,” Heath said. “To be a lawyer is a privilege. It is to advocate for others; to be a leader in our communities; and to use our power to stand up for what is right. That’s a tremendous responsibility. But it’s one we are prepared to face. Because to be a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School is to be a person of integrity.”
The executive director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, Cathy Haukedahl (’79), gave the 2017 commencement address. Before joining Legal Aid, Haukedahl served as solicitor general for the state of Minnesota and worked in employment and commercial law at a Minneapolis firm.
Haukedahl began her remarks by recalling the moment, 38 years ago, that she received her J.D. degree from the Law School and embarked on a lifetime of satisfying work. “I’ve loved being a lawyer ever since,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong—I haven’t loved every minute of practicing law, or even every year, but overall, I’m very glad I chose this profession as a career.” As an aid to new graduates, Haukedahl offered three keys to her experience of “finding joy in the practice even when times are tough.”
First, she suggested graduates find mentors and be mentors. As a college undergraduate, Haukedahl recalls working as an intern for Federal Trade Commissioner Mary Gardiner Jones, a lawyer and the first woman to lead the organization. Seeing a female leader and lawyer opened Haukedahl’s mind to new opportunities. “I could be a lawyer,” she thought. It had never previously crossed her mind.
Next, she encouraged graduates to perform volunteer work. She made a pitch for Legal Aid programs, which serve people who can’t afford lawyers, yet need to legal help. She noted that legal aid programs in Minnesota turn away 60 percent of eligible clients because the organization lacks the resources to help them. Pro bono attorneys can provide that help.
And finally, she urged graduates to “do justice, not only in your pro bono work (which I know you will now do), but in every aspect of your law practice.” Haukedahl honed in on the importance of justice, adding that “doing justice is different from practicing law well. Justice is defined as ‘what is right and fair.’ The law, and the practice of law, are not always right and fair. But to strive to integrate the value of justice into every aspect of our work as lawyers … is what leads us to a rewarding, satisfying career far beyond having a meticulous legal practice.”
Haukedahl concluded her remarks by saying, “My wish for you today is that at the end of your career you can say you’ve enjoyed being a lawyer even half as much as I have. If you incorporate into your work mentorship, doing for others, and, most importantly, doing justice, you will be able to say this.”
After remarks on behalf of the Board of Regents, Regent McMillan conferred degrees on the J.D., LL.M., and Masters of Science in Patent Law graduates. Diplomas were presented by Professors Ann Burkhart and Bradley Clary (’75) for the J.D. class; Professor Karen Lundquist for the LL.M. class; and program director Chris Frank for the Master of Science in Patent Law class.
The commencement ceremonies concluded with the singing of “Hail! Minnesota” by class of 2017 members William Coberly, Alexandra Holznecht, Timothy Michael Joyce, Gaowen Li, Hannah C. Lomax-Vogt, and Walter Prescott.