The University of St. Thomas School of Law held in-person graduation ceremonies on May 16 for the classes of 2020 and 2021. Both events were held in O’Shaughnessy Stadium on the University of St. Thomas St. Paul campus.
Class of 2021
The law school conferred degrees to 161 students in the Class of 2021. Among them were 141 students earning their J.D. – four of whom earned a joint degree – and 20 earning a master’s or LL.M. degree in organizational ethics and compliance.
This year's elected student speaker was Sarah Williams, who reflected on the past three years of law school with her classmates.
“We have celebrated together, cried together, spent long nights at the library together, but we did not do this alone. Thank you to the faculty and staff for your unwavering support, encouragement, and not so gentle nudges to keep us on track,” she said. “Thank you for contributing to the most formidable years of our professional development. And thank you to our friends and family these past three years for your patience, love and Starbucks gift cards. We did it.”
Williams also spoke about completing law school during the pandemic and in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We watched Minnesota take the lead with changing history, but the story doesn't end there,” she told her classmates. “All eyes are now on us to use our skills to be advocates, justice seekers, community builders and to be our brother and sister’s keeper.”
Katherian Roe, federal defender for the District of Minnesota, gave the keynote address at this year's ceremony. In her remarks, she spoke about the significance of having a legal education and the ability of lawyers to affect change and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
“Look around you at your world. There's so much work to be done,” she said. “You're about to get a law degree in your hand. You have power, you have skills, you have knowledge.”
Roe also urged graduates to remember the reasons they decided to go to law school and to bring passion to their work as lawyers.
“My wish for you today is that you find the work that inspires you and that you bring passion to it, so it won't just be a job, so it will be so much more than a job,” she said. “And then when you look back on your career in 25 years and you take measure of it, that you'll be proud of what you've done for yourself, but just as proud, if not more proud, of what you've done for others. So come up here when it's your turn, grab your diploma, celebrate your accomplishment, and then get out there, because we need your energy and we need your help.”
Dean Robert Vischer, who was elected professor of the year by the Class of 2021, passed out the academic hoods to the graduates.
As a whole, the J.D. class performed more than 10,100 hours of public service work over the course of their legal education. St. Thomas Law requires each student to perform a minimum of 50 hours of community service on the belief that all lawyers have an obligation to share their skills and knowledge. Sixteen members of the class volunteered more than 100 hours over the course of their law school careers.
Seven members of the Class of 2021 were recognized with Mission Awards during their time at the law school. They are John Dixon, Sarah Koziol, Wendy Raymond and Ryan Todd, for service and community; Sara Hunemiller, for scholarly engagement and societal reform; and Adam Pilon and Sarah Williams, for living the mission.
An electronic version of the 2021 commencement program has been posted online.
View a recording of the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 on YouTube.
Class of 2020
Last spring, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 had to be canceled. The law school made the decision to host a virtual celebration and committed to convening a commencement for 2020 graduates in May 2021.
Eighty-eight of the 171 students from the Class of 2020 participated in the ceremony one year later on May 16. Among them were 78 students who earned their J.D., five who earned their LL.M. in U.S. Law and five who earned a master’s or LL.M. degree in organizational ethics and compliance.
Class speaker Sinloria Macrae returned to address her classmates, recalling their time together in law school and the year since they graduated.
“My prayer for you is to always remember our resiliency and have an unwavering belief in yourself and your capabilities,” she said. “I am so honored that I belong to this special and unique class. I truly cannot wait to see how much more we will grow and change the world.”
The 2020 keynote speaker, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig, was also at the event to speak to the graduates.
“It's great that you could come back together today and see each other and greet each other and cheer each other on and congratulate each other. ...,” she said. “But as you move forward, don't ever lose your sense of humor, and your sense of compassion and empathy for others. It's one of the things that I have been most struck by at the law school at St. Thomas, your love and compassion for others. It's quite noticeable for someone coming from the outside in, you should be really proud of that.”
Law professor Rachel Moran, who was elected professor of the year by the Class of 2020, passed out the academic hoods to the graduates.
An electronic version of the 2020 commencement program has been posted online.
View a recording of the 2021 commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 on YouTube.
Read more about the Class of 2020 here.