Catholic University law school alumnus William Jawando, 2008, was the guest of honor and keynote speaker at the 18th Alumni–Student Reception sponsored by The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) on March 15, 2012.
Jawando (at podium, top) who currently serves as deputy director of Strategic Partnerships, U.S. Department of Education, used the occasion to share a message of hope and inspiration with current students and to thank the law school community for its support.
Jawando told the audience, which included his parents, his wife Michele, and their young daughter, Alia, that three lessons have guided him throughout his life.
“Dream as if there are no limits. Find a pursuit you’re passionate about. Strive to be your best self,” he summed up.
Jawando has lived his own advice. Previously, he served as associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he led outreach efforts in the areas of education, poverty, and issues relating to children and families.
Jawando has also served as education policy advisor and judiciary legislative assistant to Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and as a legislative aide in the office of then Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, with whom he has much in common.
Before the two ever met, the future president was made aware of some striking similarities between them: both were the sons of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Africa, and both married women named Michele. Upon meeting, Obama joked, “so what are you, my long-lost brother or something?”
Jawando also spoke of his admiration and affection for law school dean Veryl Miles, now in her final months in the job, calling her “a special person” and recalling how she braved near-hurricane conditions to attend their wedding several years ago.
The dean returned the compliments, calling Jawando “a third son” and telling the crowd, “We’re all a family and you just heard from your brother.”
In recognition of the dean’s strong support over the years, and honoring her own special status as the law school’s first female and African-American dean, the BLSA students surprised her by announcing the permanent renaming of the group’s annual alumni award, which will now be known as “The Veryl V. Miles BLSA Alumni Achievement Award.”
Other featured speakers on the program included Nana Nyarko (2L), president, BLSA; Jamel Vinson (2L), day vice-president, BLSA; Jamie Brown (2E), evening vice-president, BLSA; and Kim Jones (2L), treasurer, BLSA.