School of Law News

2014 Law Commencement - Student Remarks

Posted Saturday, May 10, 2014


Law Commencement
Saturday, May 17, 2014
9:30 a.m.
Symphony Hall – Springfield MA

Student Remarks
Adam VanHeyst

          Good morning Doctor Caprio, Doctor Hirsch, Dean Gouvin, Faculty and Administration, honored guests, Friends and Family, and the class of 2014. Well we’re finally here, and first and foremost I’d like to congratulate my fellow students, and might I add, from where I am standing you all look fantastic! I’m sure I am not the only one who is somewhat surprised to be in the seats we are in now. I must admit, as happy as I am to be done, I will miss it. Sure, the sleepless nights and persistent stress may have taken years off our lives, but there is something enjoyable about the journey. Maybe the people, could be the new experiences, might be the zombie-esc crawl to Paddy’s pub for post finals complaining. Whatever it may be, I’m certain we will all miss this place. The three years spent at Western New England have truly had a profound impact on my life. 

         Now that was cliché, and I don’t intend on being cliché, since while writing this, my roommate scolded me about how I am not allowed to do that. I do not want to discuss the superior skills we have developed, or how expansive our understanding of the law has become. We all share that sense of accomplishment, and we are sitting here today because we have proven that we possess the discernment required by our chosen profession. But, I do want to discuss the “subtle advantages,” the understated benefit of being in this community, here, at Western New England. 

          Now before I go on I must say that wordsmith is not the most accurate portrayal of me, and a vast and vibrant vocabulary is something I’m working on, but with that being said, let the “soliloquy” begin. Our class is a rather small group. This may seem insignificant, but it is not, it defines us, it sets us apart.  And with that, we have gained the subtle advantage that “ya gotta own it”.  Here, you had to own up to everything you did because everyone knows you, everyone sees you. You were never a number, and you could not slip below the surface or stand on the sidelines there were no sidelines. Everyone heard the dumb comment you made in class (guilty). We all saw you wear that pieced together sweat suit, resembling a home made snuggy, and by no means could you evade the all powerful gaze of Professor Leavens, as he peered into your soul mid murder lecture. You had to own up to it.  But with that, we learned how to present ourselves to our peers. We learned that we could speak out, take a risk, have our voice be heard, and live with the consequences. This is an advantage because we were forced to be conscious of our conduct, we earned it, and we owned it.

          Now, our community may be small, but we are diverse as well. We are distinct individuals, with differing opinions, mannerisms, and passions. With all of us out there “owning up” to that individuality, we, basically had to put up with each other. Here, there were no cliques, there were no factions. We all were stuck with one another. No matter what your belief was, how you presented yourself, or how ridiculously off topic your torts hypothetical was, we had to listen to it, appreciate it, and respond to it. That gives us an edge. We now welcome contrasting views, in fact we expect them.  We are practiced in appreciating the differing identities amongst us.  We almost innately listen with a more defined ear. We learned to listen, and not just hear. Also, we have found friendship. Not ordinary friendships, we were in no ordinary community.

Law school presented a situation, where we all were technically in competition with one another. When I first started to apply to law school I was given the impression that my fellow classmates may be my biggest adversaries, but that seems almost comical now reflecting back on our experience, and I attribute that to our friendships. I think that this school has shifted our basis of evaluating characteristics we find appealing in others. There was a new criteria in a sense. For instance, having the most illustrious Toga at the fraternity spring fling is no longer impressive, being captain of a sports team is wholly irrelevant, yet being able to dead lift a refrigerator is, apparently, still  noteworthy . I’m looking at you Professor Baker. We sought out individuals who we respected for their intellectual prowess, compassion, integrity, or even kindness. My friends and I appreciated each other for our work ethics, valued our individuality, and honored the companionship. We were privileged to associate with one another. The structure of never-ending competitiveness did not seem to pull us apart, but banded us together. We all placed our feet to the fire, and came out on the other side as a unit, with admiration for one another.

          Throughout our professional careers we will befriend colleagues working in a similar competitive environment. But remember and value this framework, and enthusiastically strive to recreate it in your workplace. We make our group better, and that gives us an advantage. I’d like to leave off on this final thought. We have a responsibility to make Western New England Law better. What matters about this institution is the community that it is made up of, and as alumni we have an obligation to uphold this community. The harder we work to fulfill our aspirations and achieve our career goals, the greater the impact we can have on this institution and its reputation. Our diplomas we receive today are stocks we invest in and you shouldn’t invest in something you don’t believe in. The more we do from here on out, the more desirable our law school becomes and in turn the more our diploma means.  As you can see, it is circular, and we have to go and push this circle in motion. I believe that by amplifying upon the sublet advantages we have learned here, we will do that but leave here knowing that you have that responsibility. Before I finish, I’d also like to take a moment to thank my mother, my father and my wonderful family for always supporting me, and believing in me. You are my inspiration, and you have always pushed me to aim high and accomplish my goals. I could not have done this without you.

I encourage my fellow classmates to take the time today to show your appreciation for the people that supported you through your law school career, and let them know the impact that the had made, and thank them for all that they have done. Thank you for a great three years. I am honored to have had the opportunity to speak to you all today, oh and good luck on the bar.


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