School of Law 2024 commencement.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

School of Law Celebrates 2024 Commencement

The University of St. Thomas School of Law conferred degrees to 188 students on May 11, 2024. Among them, 160 students earned their Juris Doctor (J.D.), 18 earned an LL.M. in U.S. law and 10 earned a master’s degree in organizational ethics and compliance.

Professor David Grenardo, who was elected professor of the year by the Class of 2024, hooded the graduates. University of St. Thomas President Robert Vischer conferred the degrees.

David Grenardo and law school graduate.
Professor David Grenardo (r) hoods a graduate at the 2024 School of Law commencement ceremony at the Minneapolis Convention Center on May 11, 2024. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

In his opening remarks, interim Dean Joel Nichols reflected on the Class of 2024’s time in law school.

“You came from all over the country, and indeed all over the world, and contributed to a distinctive law school community. And have navigated a post-COVID world with lots of in-person interaction, but with the changing realities of a need for online competency,” he said. “You’ve advocated for the immigrant, for the elderly, the poor and the prisoner. You’ve argued before the 9th Circuit in California, attended moot court and trial advocacy competitions across the country and on Zoom, and worked tirelessly on behalf of others here in Minnesota. Whether a J.D., LL.M. or M.S.L. student, you’ve juggled jobs, health challenges, family issues and a heavy workload that often occupied evenings and weekends to earn the right to walk across the stage today.”

Class achievements

The J.D. class performed more than 11,050 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. Two of them, Carrie Anderson and Kenya Holderbecker, contributed more than 500 hours of service to the community.

Ten members of the Class of 2024 were recognized with Mission Awards during law school. The annual awards honor law students, faculty, staff and alumni whose activities and work exemplify the school’s mission, vision and values.

It is a tradition of each graduating J.D. class to give a collective gift to the law school. The Class of 2024 chose to fund bookstands and portable monitors which will be available in the law library. This year’s gift was coordinated by class representatives Edward Almeida and Morgen Dempsey.

Keynote speaker Gaye Adams Massey, J.D.

Gaye Adams Massey, retired CEO of the YWCA St. Paul, gave the keynote address.

Gaye Adams Massey speaking at School of Law commencement.
Gaye Adams Massey, retired CEO of the YWCA St. Paul, addresses School of Law graduates. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Adams Massey previously served as senior deputy general counsel for UnitedHealth Group and general counsel of its Ovations division. She is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a trustee or board member for several for-profit and nonprofit organizations, was recognized as a Most Admired CEO and a Twin Cities Black Leader to Know by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal and was selected among the Twin Cities Business 100 People to Know.

During her remarks, Adams Massey touched on three themes.

“As you envision your future, I have three hopes for you,” she said. “First, that you define success for yourself according to your own values. Second, that you maintain an ethic of service and a spirit of generosity. And third, that you embrace abundance and possibility and nurture the relationships that support you.”

Adams Massey also encouraged graduates not to have a “fixed destination” in life or their careers.

“The journey itself is the important thing. So please enjoy it,” she said. “Your journey will be full of highs and lows and unexpected twists. … Plan and take time for yourself to do things that renew, recharge and reinvigorate your energy and passion and health. Then you can be your best for your family, your work and your community. You can also be ready for unexpected opportunities and have the strength for unexpected difficulties.”

Class speaker Emily Toms

This year’s elected student speaker was Emily Toms. During law school, Toms served as student government treasurer and managing editor for the St. Thomas Law Journal. Following graduation, Toms will be a law clerk for the Honorable Janine Kern of the South Dakota Supreme Court.

In her remarks, Toms spoke about her classmates’ shared journey through law school and the unknowns that are part of making decisions about one’s life and career.

“Our job is to embrace the questions, pivot when needed and reflect on how far we’ve come,” she said. “While I can’t answer every question that’s floating around in our heads today, I do want to answer one. And that is, are we ready to face whatever is in store for us when we walk out these doors? To that question, my answer is an undeniable yes. So, let’s walk forward together with the courage to face the questions to come.”