Saint Louis University School of Law celebrated its Hooding Ceremony for the Class of 2017 Saturday, May 20, recognizing the achievements of 157 graduates.
The ceremony began with the National Anthem and an invocation led by Sue Chawszczewski, Ph.D., director of SLU’s campus ministry. Dean William P. Johnson, in his first Hooding Ceremony as dean, gave a welcome address.
"I’ve known these graduates for the last three years, and I really love this class,” Johnson said. “Our graduates soon will share with their colleagues in the law a unique and remarkable responsibility for the American legal system, for justice, for democratic principles and the rule of law. It is an awesome responsibility.”
Johnson went on to announce the two faculty members chosen by the Class of 2017: Gary Rutledge, who was honored as the Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year, and Anders Walker, the Lillie Myers Professor of Law, who was honored as Faculty Member of the Year. In his address to the graduates, Walker touched on some of the major legal questions that arose on the national level as the class journeyed through law school, from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson that ignited protests across the country, to the Supreme Court declaration of same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, to the election of Donald Trump as president.
“We have been through some historic events, people!” Walker said. “There was no better time to study law in the United States than the past three years. … Thank you for making it an absolute pleasure to teach law. Good luck.”
Class valedictorian Jimmy Martin followed, giving a brief address. Martin admitted that his initial decision to go to law school was driven by a desire to get a good job, but that upon arrival at SLU LAW, he saw another motivation among his classmates.
“I learned that many of my classmates came here – to this law school – for a higher purpose, to serve others in need,” Martin said. “I learned that many of my classmates came to get a degree that allows them to help people in profound ways, and I quickly learned that SLU LAW is a special place that encourages this, due in large part to the terrific faculty so devoted to the success of its students. This inherent desire to serve others and to serve the community changed my outlook on law school and a career in law more generally, and I have my classmates to thank for that.”
Following Martin’s address, Dean of Students Jon Baris commenced the presentation of hoods, which were bestowed upon the degree candidates by several faculty members.
The hooding was followed by remarks from the John C. Shepherd Graduation Speaker, Dana Tippin Cutler, president of the Missouri Bar. Cutler described her disillusionment after thinking that she would have her “happily ever after” if she just got through law school and passed the Bar exam.
“About 10 years ago, I hit the proverbial wall. I was so, so tired of practicing law,” Cutler said. “At some point, every one of you will be responsible for the bottom line, and more importantly, you will be responsibility for the livelihoods that are supported by that bottom line. It is stressful. Your responsibilities will overwhelm you.” She described her process of self-renewal following this period and of coming to terms with her own strengths and weaknesses as an attorney, offering advice to the graduates for their own times of struggle.
“One – Embrace your failures,” she said. “It is oftentimes an opportunity to change and do things differently, and hope for the better. Two – Share your failures. Your sharing will help somebody else survive. Three – Do not cling to your failures. If you cling to it, you won’t be able to grab the next best thing.”
The ceremony concluded with a benediction led by Chawszczewski and closing remarks by Johnson, who invited the graduates to return often and continue to be part of the SLU LAW community.
“As we leave here today, classmates in some instances will become your colleagues, and some will become opposing counsel,” Johnson said. “Even while you represent your clients zealously, always treat each other and other counsel with the same civility, decency and respect that I’ve seen you consistently demonstrate here, especially when it’s hard. That’s when it matters most. Set the SLU example. You will be glad you did, and the profession will be better for it.”