In April, Catholic Law announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its usual commencement events held in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception would not be possible this year. With the decision to move the degree conferral ceremony online, the Law School’s 131st graduating class became the first-ever class at Catholic Law to do so virtually.
On May 22, through Zoom and Livestream on the Law School’s YouTube channel, the Class of 2020, family, friends, faculty, and staff tuned in from across the country to celebrate. Many students and faculty donned full regalia in honor of the occasion. As Katherine Crowley, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, emceed the event from Walter A. Slowinski Courtroom, she addressed the Class of 2020—ensuring them that it is not these last few months that define this graduating class, but the exceptional work they have done throughout their law school careers.
Following an Invocation by Father Raymond O’Brien and the singing of the National Anthem, led by graduate Anika Smith, Dean Stephen C. Payne made his opening remarks, reflecting on the many days in a lawyer’s life. “Today is a good day. You earned your law degree and that is a hard thing to do—even without a pandemic at the end of it.” Dean Payne also recognized the loss of classmate and friend Alexandros “Alexi” Bazekis, announcing that by special approval of the University’s academic senate, the Law School would be conferring Bazekis the degree of Juris Doctor In Memoriam.
William Barry Gibson was elected to speak on behalf of the Class of 2020. In his address he noted that what we are all living through is an interruption and despite all that has been interrupted by this pandemic, each person can take away a sense of gratitude, resiliency, and humility. President John Garvey then conferred the degrees of Master of Legal Studies, Master of Laws, and Juris Doctor. The graduates’ names were read by Professor Sarah Duggin who was selected to serve as Faculty Marshall.
As the program drew to a close, Dean Payne and Dean Crowley announced major award recipients, each award is given to one Day Division student and one Evening Division student. For the John L. Garvey Faculty Award, Anika Michelle Smith (Day) and Sarah Elizabeth Mysiewicz Gill (Evening); for the Michael F. Curtin Pro Bono Award, Maria Fernanda Lino Callao (Day) and Larry McCammon (Evening); and for the Alumni Association Award, Elizabeth Grant Bowen (Day) and Anne Eileen Ustynoski (Evening).
In speaking about the event, Emily Sobieski from the Office of Student Life and Special Events shared, "This whole event coming together is really a culmination of the work and collaboration of a lot of different offices. When the decision was made to make the ceremony virtual, everyone stepped up to help plan and execute the event. Everyone has really gone above and beyond and I think the way in which everyone has risen to the occasion really shows how much community spirit there is at Catholic Law. It’s unfortunate that we cannot have the ceremony in person at this time, but we have all shared the common goal of making the Virtual Degree Conferral the best that it could possibly be for our students."
The Law School looks forward to celebrating with the Class of 2020 in-person when conditions allow—either July 24 or October 16, 2020.