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Law School celebrates Class of 2014

The Law School hosted its 135th formal commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17 in Carlisle and University Park, PA.
Doyinsola Aribo and her family

The Law School celebrated 176 J.D. and 62 LL.M. graduates at its 135th commencement with ceremonies in Carlisle and University Park on Saturday May 17. The ceremonies featured Matthew McDonald and Collin Cole, both members of the Class of 2014. Matthew Esworthy '01 spoke on behalf of the Law School Alumni Society. 

University President Eric Barron, whose term as Penn State president began less than one week prior to Law School commencement, delivered opening remarks in University Park. "It is an honor to share this special day with our graduates, their families and their friends," he said, congratulating the Class of 2014 on joining a prestigious group of alumni that include the first Secretary of Homeland Security and five U.S. Senators.

"Your futures similarly hold the promise of much success and unimagined opportunities," he said.  

Attorney Jiaying Yan, who earned a master's in law, reflected on the experience of studying law as an international student in the United States. 

We speak 12 different languages from 20 different countries. No matter how we shape our laws we march toward the same goal of justice. —LL.M. graduate and Attorney Jiaying Yan

"We speak 12 different languages from 20 different countries," she said, referring to the 79 LL.M. students who entered the 1.5-year program in 2013. "No matter how we shape our laws we march toward the same goal of justice which stands out as the same." 

Hope and a brighter tomorrow

Commencement speaker the R. Seth Williams ’89 Lib., district attorney of the City of Philadelphia, started by having graduates stand and applaud their families and friends in attendance whose support and encouragement made this day possible. Williams oversees 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff and is responsible for prosecution of more than 75,000 criminal cases annually. He explained that each day his two cell phones, iPhone, and Blackberry alert him to a constant stream of violence and despair, "grim reminders of the failures of society." Commencement, however, is a bright spot that reminds him of what is going well in society.

"This morning these bright shining faces, the lovely speech we just heard, the crying babies, the balloons that were outside, all represent the best, the very best, and are testimony to hope and a brighter tomorrow," he said, noting that everyone in the room has handled adversity in his or her own way. "Penn State was founded to provide a quality education for the sons and daughters of the working class...that is who I am and it is who you are. For the most part those of you that chose Penn State are the very people this school was meant for." 

Williams graduated from Penn State, where he was president of the Black Caucus and then president of the Undergraduate Student Government, representing all 57,000 undergraduate students. Williams then attended Georgetown University’s School of Law where he graduated with distinction as a Public Interest Scholar in 1992. After graduation, Williams returned home to Philadelphia to continue his service to the public in the city’s District Attorney’s office. Williams spent ten years as an Assistant D.A. He created and led the Repeat Offenders Unit aimed at reducing the high percentage of crimes committed by repeat offenders. In 2009 he became the first African-American district attorney in Pennsylvania.

Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Nicholas P. Jones gave opening remarks at the Carlisle ceremony. “Your futures are the promise of success and opportunity. Around the world Penn State is known for excellence in teaching, research and service and it ranks among the top 1 percent of higher education institutions world-wide. Our students are also known for their desire to contribute to the larger community. Through your openness and compassion for humankind you have been wonderful ambassadors for Penn State,”​ Jones said.

Success is never final

Bhavana Boggs, vice president and assistant general counsel of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, a subsidiary of Marriott International, addressed the Carlisle graduates. "Success is never final. You can and should create your own formula for success. Establish your own personal reputable brand and develop relationships," Boggs said. In the context of providing efficient delivery of legal services, Boggs stated, “It’s your generation of lawyers who will be at the forefront of changes inevitable in our profession.” Emphasizing the importance of understanding different perspectives, she observed that as much as the legal profession is based on ideals, the work of lawyers is “about people and their very real problems.”   

Boggs began her career as a labor and employment lawyer and was part of Reed Smith’s labor and employment  practice in Washington, D.C. before moving to Marriott. The company earned $12 billion in revenues last year, has 325,000 employees worldwide, and managed and franchised 3,800 lodging properties in seventy-four countries and territories. In her current role, her key areas of focus are managing the long-term agreements with owners of The Ritz-Carlton’s assets, general operations and compliance, and protecting and advancing the Ritz-Carlton brand.​Boggs studied international affairs as an undergraduate student at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

The Carlisle ceremony concluded with remarks from Matthew McDonald ’14 who was chosen by his classmates. “Look at our growth from when we started school to where we sit today. It’s been a hard and rigorous contest, but that’s precisely why we’ve grown. Our adversity has made us who we are today, but we cannot forget that it will be our adversity tomorrow, and the next day that will make us what we want to become.” ​

Graduates and families joined Law School faculty and staff for post-ceremony receptions.


Crystal Stryker
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