The University of St. Thomas School of Law conferred degrees to 171 students on May 16. Among them were 133 students earning their J.D. – four of whom earned a joint degree – 18 earning an LL.M. in U.S. Law, and 20 earning a master’s or LL.M. degree in organizational ethics and compliance.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a graduation ceremony was not held; however this year’s commencement speakers prerecorded their speeches for a video that was sent out to the Class of 2020.
The video features messages from Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig, who was scheduled to give this year’s keynote address, class speaker Sinloria Macrae and law professor Rachel Moran.
In his closing remarks at the end of the video, law school Dean Robert Vischer encourages graduates to be present in the moment and enjoy the accomplishment of graduating from law school.
“I recognize that … watching this on the computer, it’s not quite as celebratory as the full ceremony,” he says. “But don’t let that diminish the joy you derive from what you have accomplished. Lawyers, by nature, tend to be professional worriers. We’re much better at dreading future worst-case scenarios than we are at appreciating the present, and the pandemic has given all of us plenty to worry about. But today’s milestone is big. You are law school graduates.”
All graduates also received a congratulatory message from the law school by mail, along with their cap and gown, and an electronic version of the commencement program has been posted online.
International online reception
On May 16, law school faculty and staff gathered for an online video conference to honor those who graduated with an LL.M. in U.S. Law degree. The one-year program brings students to St. Thomas Law who have earned a law degree in another country and now want to study the American legal system.
Students in this year’s program represent 10 countries: Ethiopia, Guatemala, China, Hungary, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Peru, Colombia and the United Kingdom.
Many had family and friends from their home countries log in to Saturday’s online video call.
“It was moving to hear from parents, most of whom are living through lockdowns in their own countries and haven’t seen their kids for many months, express how proud they are of what their children achieved this year,” Vischer said. “And our LL.M. graduates, after all they’ve been through, talked about how grateful they are to our faculty and staff for a phenomenal, life-changing year.”
As a whole, the J.D. class performed more than 9,800 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. Eighteen members of the class volunteered more than 100 hours over the course of their law school careers.
Ten members of the Class of 2020 were recognized with Mission Awards during their time at the law school. They are Kimberly Boche, Thomas Godfrey, Michelle Gonzalez and Erin Schoenbeck, for service and community; Ashlie Steppat, for scholarly engagement and societal reform; Dustin Cesarek, Nathaniel Fouch, Samia Young, for living the mission; and Jonathan Husted and Anne St. Amant, for excellence in professional preparation.