School of Law News
Posted May 26, 2011
Western New England School of Law graduates were urged to become leaders, embrace their “layers,” and become champions of the legal system during Commencement exercises Saturday, May 21 at Springfield Symphony Hall.
The 182 men and women walked across the stage and into the history books as the final graduating class from Western New England College School of Law, as the institution formally transitions to Western New England University on July 1.
“It means a tremendous amount to me to, in a sense, become a graduate of this school,” said United States District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor upon receiving an honorary Doctor of Law degree for his decades of distinguished service on the federal bench.
United States District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor delivers the Commencement Address
“For nearly 20 years I was privileged to teach as an adjunct professor at this School of Law, acquiring a deep respect for the high quality of the teaching here and a great fondness for the students and the faculty,” Ponsor added. “This is a very special place and a very special community.”
In his Commencement address, Ponsor challenged graduates to commit themselves to preserving, protecting, and advocating for a strong legal system. “An independent judiciary marks the boundary between tyranny and a free people,” he said. “We should not assume that an independent judiciary is inevitable, or that it can survive without constant attention.”
Student speaker Julie McKenna’s advice to her fellow graduates was to embrace all the ‘layers’ that make each of them unique. “We are entering a profession where it is incredibly easy to let one layer – being an attorney -- become the biggest layer, and therefore the biggest part of who we are. But it is important to remember that without the other layers – that family layer, the friend layer, that spiritual layer – the attorney layer has no depth.”
School of Law Dean Arthur Gaudio added his own final request of the graduating class of 148 J.D. and 34 LL.M. recipients – to use the power of their diplomas generously.
“While in law school, you were educated and trained in the skills of the legal profession,” said Gaudio. “Now I ask you to use those skills to become leaders in our profession and in your communities, whether they are large or small, local or national.”
Noting that the law school faculty recently voted to make pro bono work a requirement for graduation, Gaudio called on the Class of 2011 to join a Western New England effort to assure that everyone has access to legal services.
President Anthony S. Caprio welcomed the newly-minted graduates to the ranks of 41,000 Western New England alumni worldwide, noting the institution’s simple beginnings in 1919 just a few blocks away as the Springfield Division of Northeastern University, its emergence as Western New England College in 1951, and the new chapter it will embark upon as a university.
“The history of this great institution demonstrates that ours is a special calling and that a unique and a remarkable legacy has been entrusted to us all. You as graduates have actually witnessed and lived the growth of our institution on a daily basis. You have helped us make this University what it is today,” said Caprio.
“I am proud to have you as alumni of Western New England University.”