Lexington, VA • Monday, May 12, 2008
The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 153rd commencement on Saturday, May 10 as 141 J.D. degrees and five LL.M. degrees were awarded.
The graduates will begin their legal careers in 25 different states and several foreign countries. 22 graduates will go on to judicial clerkships, ten of those at the federal level. And one graduate, Paul Howe, will head to Ethiopia where he will serve as CEO of Gimbie Adventist Hospital, a 70 bed facility with seven affiliated medical clinics and 200 staff members and volunteers.
Graduation festivities began Friday afternoon on the Lewis Hall lawn with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks. Music and fireworks, co-sponsored by the School of Law and the Alumni Association, followed on Friday evening at the Liberty Hall ruins.
The commencement ceremony began at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday with an opening invocation by Graham S. Butler, Law Class of 2008, who earned a theology degree at Duke University prior to coming to W&L to attend law school. After the official welcome from President Ken Ruscio, Dean Rodney A. Smolla addressed the graduating class.
"As you are leaving, think about why you came to law school," said Dean Smolla. "You came to grow—not into something—but into someone. And that growth will continue throughout your life." The candidates were then awarded their degrees.
This year's commencement address was delivered by Judge William H. Webster, former FBI and CIA director and chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Looking back across a forty-year career in public service where he was involved with some of the most sensitive political and intelligence issues of the 20th century, Judge Webster put forth two words sure to serve the graduates as they begin their careers in the law: truth and trust.
Webster noted that he had observed throughout his career, whether helping to preserve the delicate balance between national security and civil liberties or protecting the public from a potential health crisis, "things work better when people trust each other. But Lawyers who dissemble may never again regain the trust of the court."
"Remember that each of you carries the reputation of all the rest around with you in your pocket," added Judge Webster.
Afterwards, third-year class officers Kristen Depowski and Teddy Arnold presented Judge Webster with his very own walking stick, traditionally given to students at the awards ceremony preceding graduation. The walking stick, or cane, originated in the 1920's as a way to distinguish third-year law students on campus. At that time, only two years of law school were required, and the walking stick served as a way to reward and honor those students who stayed for a third year.
Special honors at Friday's awards ceremony went to the following students:
- Megan Martha Reed was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.
- Jennifer Justine LaVoie won the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.
- Melanie Ann Mckay won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.
- Jeffrey Tate Mauzy and Kent Paul Woods shared in the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.
- Joshua Kerry Payne won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.
- Juliette Ai-Mie Syn won the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.
- Elizabeth Katherine Joseph won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award, given to an outstanding woman law student.
- David Layne Hillman won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.
- Diane Stephanie Meier won the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.
- Jennifer Lynn Crose won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.
- Todd Benjamin Holvick and Whitney Renee Travis won the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.
- Lisa Joan Hedrick won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.
- Rufus Stephen McNeill won the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.
- James D. Laukkonen won the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.
- Kristina Jean Longo won the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy and the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.
The Law Class of 2008