The University of St. Thomas School of Law conferred degrees to 131 students on May 12, 2018. Among them were 102 students earning their J.D. – five of whom earned a joint degree – 22 earning an LL.M. in U.S. law, and seven earning a master’s or LL.M. degree in organizational ethics and compliance.
Dean Robert Vischer ticked off a list of class accomplishments in his opening remarks: “You’ve advocated for the immigrant, for the elderly, for the poor. You represented a prisoner in his appeal before the 9th circuit court of appeals. You’ve worked for the reform of the federal clemency system. You’ve started what has to be the nation’s No. 1 law school improv troupe. You’ve expanded our law school’s footprint into the compliance departments of more Fortune 500 companies than ever before. Through your leadership of our law journals, you’ve brought crucial attention to legal developments in topics ranging from human trafficking, to religious liberty, to academic freedom, to block chain technology. You spent time at the United Nations working on behalf of the Catholic Church to promote human rights.”
“We are grateful for the many ways in which you have helped build this law school, shaped the nature of our community, advanced our mission, and shown a degree of “personality” that has been welcome and energizing,” Vischer concluded. “As your dean, and on behalf of our faculty, staff, trustees and Board of Governors, I extend our thanks and gratitude.”
Professor Julie Oseid was elected professor of the year by the Class of 2018 and hooded the graduates. St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan conferred the degrees.
As a whole, the J.D. class performed over 8,000 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 the gifts with which they have been blessed. Twenty-seven members of the class gave more than 100 hours.
Four members of the Class of 2018 were recognized with Mission Awards during their time at the law school. They are Danielle Liebl, for scholarly engagement and societal reform, and Daniel Dosch, Sam Evans and Amanda Heinrichs-Milburn, for living the mission.
The class also achieved over 90 percent participation in the class gift. The class chose to support the funding of a summer public interest fellowship, as well as donate board games for the law library.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER JUSTICE ALAN PAGE
The Hon. Alan Page, retired justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, was invited to give the keynote address. Page, who pursued the law as a second career after playing professional football for the Minnesota Vikings, remarked that, “like the path that brought me to this moment, the path that each of you graduates take will provide an opportunity for you to accomplish that which you would never have dreamed possible.”
“The key to whatever success I have had, however defined, can be found in an unwillingness to be satisfied with playing to the level of the competition, a willingness to push beyond my self-perceived limitations, and a willingness to be involved in the community around me,” he said. “Those qualities have served me well, and I believe they can serve you well.”
Page spoke passionately about character as a trait that must be consciously developed.
“The outward differences, which identify us as individuals, do not define the content of our character. It is defined by how we act on an ongoing basis,” he said. “Consciously applying the values you learned here at St. Thomas will serve you well as you strive to be a person of good character. Doing so will also serve society well as you go forward to make a difference in the world.”
He closed his keynote address with a message to the new lawyers about justice.
“Etched into the façade of the United States Supreme Court building are the words: ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ But the law has not always provided justice to all segments of our society. In my view, until we all receive justice, we will none of us receive justice,” Page said. “As law school graduates, you, the members of the class of 2018, are among the privileged few. I ask that you use that privilege, the power that comes with it, and the legal tools that you have been given, to bend the moral arc of history toward justice.”
STUDENT SPEAKER DANE KNUDSEN
The student speaker was Dane Knudsen, a native of Mankato, MN, whose message centered on the Class of 2018’s family-like culture. He referenced the many memories made, passions shared and support dedicated within the class.
“Learning about what you all love, both about the law and about life, has improved the law school experience for each and every one of us,” Knudsen said. “I have heard many people say that our graduating class is like a family, and I wholeheartedly agree. We have at times clung to one another during law school. Whether it was having a study buddy, friends to get away from the school with, or someone you could simply rant to about how you don’t understand easements, and probably never will, we’ve been there for each other. What a blessing to have classmates that treat you like family, and not simply like competition.”
“So let’s make a promise now to stay in touch with each other,” he said. “Supporting each other got us this far, and it can get us even farther.”