UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – On Saturday, May 16, 2020, Penn State Law in University Park faculty, staff, students, and friends joined together to celebrate J.D., LL.M., and S.J.D. graduates in a livestreamed virtual commencement ceremony. The event honored the graduates’ achievements, as well as their dedication and resiliency during the COVID-19 crisis. Penn State Law moved commencement to a virtual format for the first time ever in response to the pandemic.
Accomplishments of members of the class of 2020 include:
- Claiming the top prize at the 2019 Willem C. Vis International Moot Court Competition over more than 370 law schools world-wide, with one team member winning an award for Best Individual Oralist;
- Five graduates selected for commissioning as Judge Advocates in the U.S. military;
- Assisting small businesses across Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 crisis through the Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic;
- Successfully arguing a disability claim before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; and
- Winning numerous awards including the National Association of Women Lawyers Recognition Award, the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for Excellence in Bankruptcy Studies, and the American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education Scholastic and Leadership Award.
The reimagined event opened with the singing of the National Anthem by J.D. graduate Alice Gyamfi and included welcome addresses from Dean Hari Osofsky and University President Eric Barron.
“You are an impressive group of students who have contributed enormously to the intellectual and civic life of our university community, and I have been so moved by your resiliency and all of the ways in which you have supported each other as we’ve faced this challenge together the past few weeks,” said Osofsky.
LL.M. graduate Sahil Jaggi and J.D. graduate Kathryn Dutton were chosen by their respective classmates to speak. The law school community’s ‘We Are’ spirit was a theme that ran through the event.
“The family that we created here at Penn State Law is worth more than any grade ever could be,” said Dutton. “Penn State Law has helped us foster so many connections with so many people, that no matter the state of the world, those connections can never be broken.”
“Penn State has taught me how we are all different, yet so alike,” said Jaggi.
The Honorable D. Brooks Smith, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Chair of the Penn State Law Board of Advisers, and adjunct professor, delivered the commencement address.
“As you join the ranks of this profession, you must see yourself not as someone who has just achieved rank or status,” said Smith. “But as a citizen of this planet who has taken on responsibilities. And it is neither possible nor right to believe that your responsibilities as a lawyer can stand apart from what is rightly expected of you as a citizen.”
Following Smith’s address, the degrees were conferred by Barron and Mark Dambly, Chairman of the Penn State University Board of Trustees.
A recognition slide was featured for each student, which included their name, a photograph, and a quote, and students and their guests were able to celebrate the graduates’ achievements through a live chat that complemented the program. After the presentation of the class of 2020, a Penn State Blue Band rendition of the Penn State alma mater played over a photo montage of memorable moments of the graduating students’ law school careers.
As the ceremony concluded, Osofsky reminded graduates, “You are Penn State family for life, and we look forward to celebrating your successes and supporting you through hard times in the years to come. We are… Penn State Law.”
The video of the virtual ceremony is available online.