June 04, 2012
Declaring that compromise is vital to social harmony,
longtime labor advocate Eugene D. Orza, Esq., ’73L addressed more
than 300 new graduates of St. John’s School of Law on June 3 during
Commencement Exercises on the Queens, NY, campus.
3,500 family, friends, faculty, administrators, staff and alumni
gathered for the exercises, held in Carnesecca Arena. The Law
School awarded 269 J.D. degrees and 35 LL.M. degrees.
Margaret V. Turano ’77L, Associate Academic Dean and Professor
of Law, served as Director of Proceedings.
Michael A. Simons, Dean of the Law School, welcomed the
students with “a teacher’s pride.” Dean Simons noted that he and
the students took their three-year journey together: He
embarked on his deanship just as the students began their legal
studies. Recounting the classroom and co-curricular achievements of
the Class of 2012, he highlighted the more than 1,000 hours they
collectively volunteered to assist the community’s destitute,
neglected and dispossessed through the Law School’s clinics and
service initiatives ― activities embodying St. John’s
Vincentian heritage and mission.
“You are ready to join the legal profession,” Dean Simons told the
graduates, adding that their law degrees give them a tremendous
opportunity to make a difference in and the power to change the
world. He added that, as they embark upon their careers, they face
most immediate challenge is beginning your career as the legal
economy is still emerging from the Great Recession,” Dean Simons
said. “But even as the recession eases, and it will, you will face
other challenges. And I don’t just mean the challenges of finding a
job, or winning a case or closing the deal. I mean those of
doing the right thing, of using your power as a lawyer to do
justice. If you meet that challenge, then you will have made for
yourself not just a career, but a life of which you can be truly
Addressing the students, Orza, a former COO of the Major League
Baseball Players Association who also served in senior positions on
the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), said he was humbled to
stand before them as they received their law degrees from a “truly
great institution with a truly great faculty.” He said that no city
on earth captures diversity better than New York City, and that
students should not underestimate how much attending law school
here will enhance their legal careers.
Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s
University, presented Orza with the degree of Doctor of Laws,
honoris causa. A self-proclaimed “Son of the South Bronx”
whose mother never graduated from high school and whose grandmother
could not read or write in English or her native Italian, Orza
served as Articles Editor for the St. John’s Law Review.
He sowed the seeds for his future career at the NLRB and the
Players Association by helping to establish the Law School’s Labor
Relations and Employment Law Society.
In 2003, St. John’s awarded Orza the Alumni Outstanding Achievement
Medal. Last year, the Law School’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports
Law Society presented him with the Joseph J. Beard Distinguished
Alumni Award for outstanding achievement in the field.
Mary Vitale ’12L said she found his words inspiring. “I’m glad
Mr. Orza offered us such practical advice,” she said. “That’s
exactly what we need.” Reflecting on Orza’s remarks on diversity,
she added: “I’m from New York City, and diversity is the main
reason why I chose to come to St. John’s.”
After Orza’s remarks,
Thomas J. Principe ’73L, President of the Alumni Association
Board of Directors, welcomed the Class of 2012 to the Law School
alumni family. Principe was a reservist in the United States Army’s
Judge Advocate General’s Office for 33 years. Upon retiring, he
earned the Army’s Legion of Merit and New York State’s Conspicuous
Service Medal. He and the attendees applauded new graduates
who served in the military.
Ravin J. Shah ’12L, a member of the Law School’s
Armed Forces Society, expressed his gratitude to family and
friends for making his path to and through law school possible.
“St. John’s has opened doors and avenues in ways I didn’t think
possible just three years ago,” he said. “I’m looking forward to
the future with optimism.”
Dean Simons presented St. John’s outgoing Provost, Julia A.
Upton, RSM, Ph.D., with the Law School Alumni Association’s St.
Thomas More Award for Outstanding Moral Leadership. The award
recognized her 12 years of “steady, skillful and supportive
leadership that has enabled us to stay true to our mission.”
The 2012 Commencement Exercises were dedicated to the memory of
Thomas F. Shea, Professor of Law, who passed away in March — 50
years after graduating from the Law School and 40 years after
joining its faculty.