In a year defined by isolation and uncertainty, The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law was grateful to have the opportunity to join together as a community for the 132nd Commencement exercises.
On Friday, May 21, 2021, graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered along the East steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate their successful completion of law school. In addition to the graduates, faculty, and staff, limited numbers of friends and family were also in attendance to celebrate the occasion. Katherine Crowley, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, welcomed those in attendance (both in-person and virtually), and following the invocation by Professor Emeritus Rev. Raymond C. O’Brien, Dean Stephen C. Payne made a few opening remarks. Dean Payne noted that not only is there a special bond between members of a graduating class, but there is a remarkable connection between alumni that spans generations. He also shared the words of “Magnifies an Object Ten Times” by Taylor Mali after which he concluded, “This challenging time in law school, this exciting time of Commencement, this special magnifying glass—and the magic of this moment—will not last: it’s up to you to see in front of you every day the specialness of the client, the person, indeed your neighbor—no matter who it happens to be.”
The ceremony included class speakers from both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021. William Barry Gibson, who also spoke on behalf of the Class of 2020 at last year’s virtual commencement, gave a modified version of his previous speech—accounting for the passage of time and the different places his classmates find themselves today. He again reminded those in attendance of three important lessons one can take from the pandemic—gratitude, resiliency, and humility. Joshua Phillip Perez was elected to speak on behalf of the Class of 2021. With humor and a well-placed analogy, Perez spoke about the things one learns by inference and shared that among the many lessons he learned at Catholic Law, he learned, “Being in law school and hand sanitizer have a lot in common during an unprecedented global pandemic.” He explained that first-year law students are nowhere to be found—just like hand sanitizer in the spring of 2020; that law school, like hand sanitizer, sometimes stings; and once he and his classmates pass the bar, they will be hand sanitizer before COVID in that they will be everywhere, and be like hand sanitizer during COVID in that they will be very expensive.
Catholic Law alumnus Jack Shields ’86 was presented the Presidential Medal by The Catholic University of America President, John Garvey. Following the presentation, Shields delivered the 2021 Commencement Address. “A legal education is preparation for more than just a career in law. A legal education prepares you for a wide range of careers,” said Shields. He then reflected not on his successes in law or business—though he’s had many—but on his time as a football player and the lessons he has carried with him throughout his career. His words reminded graduates of the importance of teamwork, thinking analytically, and learning from losing.
Dean Payne presented the Classes of 2020 and 2021 to President Garvey for the Conferral of Degrees, then Professor Kathryn Kelly—selected by the Class of 2021 to serve as Faculty Marshal—called the names of the graduates. Major award recipients were also recognized. Each award was given to one Day Division student and one Evening Division student for both the Classes of 2020 and 2021. For the John L. Garvey Faculty Award, Anika Michelle Smith (2020 Day), Sarah Elizabeth Mysiewicz Gill (2020 Evening), Caitlin E. Daday (2021 Day), and Rola Aylo (2021 Division); for the Michael F. Curtin Pro Bono Award, Maria Fernanda Lino Callao (2020 Day), Larry McCammon (2020 Evening), Mikhayla Rae Stover (2021 Day), and Keshia Marie Burns (2021 Evening); and for the Alumni Association Award, Elizabeth Grant Bowen (2020 Day), Anne Eileen Ustynoski (Evening), Hunter Daley (2021 Day), and Joshua Phillip Perez (2021 Evening).
As the program drew to a close, President Garvey addressed the Classes of 2020 and 2021. He said, “Enjoy this weekend. You have been in school for 20 years, some of you continuously. It’s now time to leave. But it’s been a lovely place to be, and you should enjoy the last few moments before you step out. God bless you all.” With a benediction from University Chaplain, Father Jude DeAngelo, and final congratulations from Assistant Dean Crowley the 132nd Commencement Exercises concluded.