Tested and tempered by the normal rigors of law school, not to mention an earthquake during their 1L year and the poignant recent passing of a fellow student, the Columbus School of Law’s Class of 2014 emerged strong and confident on May 23, as students concluded their law school careers to the cheers of family and friends during the law school's 125th Commencement at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
One hundred and eighty successful JD candidates received their diplomas. Another six students who were awarded LL.M. degrees.
Along with the beautiful weather, the celebratory occasion was marked by the thoughtfulness of the speakers’ remarks.
Law school Dean Daniel F. Attridge reminded the departing class of its responsibility to use their legal training in service of others. “You are talented, well trained, and ready to make a difference. Use your talents and your training to help other people. Nothing less is expected from those entrusted with much more,” he said.
The dean made special mention of Brandon Crisp, an evening student who succumbed to brain cancer in February, 2014. Despite his grim diagnosis, Crisp pursued his studies to the end and was awarded his JD degree on an expedited basis shortly before his passing. Crisp was both technically and symbolically the first graduate of the Class of 2014.
Anahita Sami, chosen to address the commencement audience on behalf of the graduates, was inspirational, nostalgic, and moved by her law school experience.
“I have seen such incredible displays of compassion, diligence, and intelligence from all the graduates here today,” said Sami. “After today, these qualities and our knowledge of the law will be gifted to the world, so that we may become problem solvers now, and in the future.”
John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, said that the shortest commencement address he ever heard was literally three words: return phone calls.
“You’re not getting off so easy,” Garvey joked. He went on to discuss the value of constancy, of having a moral compass that is not distracted by passing attractions.
“The great thing about a magnetized needle is that it never moves, no matter what your weather or position. What makes it a big deal is that the needle always points north. The virtue of constancy has this quality too. It points in a particular direction, a kind of true north outside our control.”
The commencement address was offered by Jane Golden Belford, who retired at the end of 2013 after having served 13 years as Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington.
As Chancellor, Belford held the highest ecclesiastical or decision making office a layperson can hold in the Roman Catholic Church. She is the first woman and the first layperson to hold the position in the history of the Archdiocese of Washington. (Belford’s successor is also a woman, Cynthia DeSimone, CUA Law Class of 2003.)
“You are among the most qualified, most prepared, and best equipped lawyers to enter the profession,” Belford told the graduates. “How do I know this? It’s because I have known so many CUA Law alumni who are partners in law firms, judges, professors of law, public servants, business leaders, general counsels, and other leaders that have made their mark and achieved great success in their careers.”
Belford shared a story about the famous architect Christopher Wren, who one day came upon three bricklayers at the construction site of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Wren asked each what they were doing. The first two said, we are laying bricks. But the third said: I am building a cathedral for the glory of God.
“What a difference perspective makes!” said Belford. “You have a choice, bricklayer or cathedral builder. As I learned, that choice can make all the difference in your life. I hope that you all become cathedral builders.”
At the end of the commencement ceremony, hundreds of the law school's newest alumni and their families and friends streamed out of the Shine and back to the law school for a reception; for most of them, a welcome and relaxing prelude to buckling down to study for the summer bar exam.
As they left, perhaps some were in mind of their class representative’s parting remarks. Ana Sami left her classmates with this thought:
“While our diplomas are what we earned for all that we have worked throughout these years, as I look around me today, I can’t help but think the journey that we all embarked on together and are completing today, was itself, the reward.”
The John L. Garvey Faculty Award
Recognizes outstanding academic achievement
Joel Stephen Dueth (Part time)
Nichole Lynne Blanchard (Full time)
Michael F. Curtin Pro Bono Award
Honors the highest ideals of pro bono service to others
Emma Elise Noftz
Law School Alumni Association Award
Recognizes academic excellence, community participation and dedication to the law school
Kara McKenna (Part time)
Jonathan Tabacoff (Full time)