June 18, 2012
On June 3, 2012, the Law School’s 265 J.D. candidates and 23
LL.M. candidates convened at Carnesecca Arena for Commencement
Exercises. Associate Academic Dean and Professor of Law
Margaret V. Turano ‘77 served as Director of Proceedings for
the ceremony that included some 3500 family, friends, faculty,
administrators, staff and alumni in the Law School community.
With a “teacher’s pride,” Dean
Michael A. Simons welcomed the students, noting that they have
taken this three-year journey together, with him embarking on his
deanship just as they began their legal studies . Recounting the
classroom and co-curricular achievements of the Class of 2012, he
highlighted the more than 1000 hours they collectively volunteered
to assist the community’s destitute, neglected and dispossessed
through the Law School’s clinics and service initiatives ― selfless
service embodying St. John’s Vincentian heritage and mission.
“You are ready to join the legal profession,” Dean Simons told
the graduates, sharing that their law degree gives them a
tremendous opportunity to make a difference and the power to change
the world. He also shared that, as they continue to make their path
to the profession and to a rewarding career, they will face many
challenges. “The most immediate challenge is beginning your career
as the legal economy is still emerging from the Great Recession,”
he said. “But even as the recession eases, and it will, you will
face other challenges. And I don’t just mean the challenge of
finding a job, or winning a case or closing the deal. I mean the
challenge 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
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The ceremony then turned to one particularly well made path
through the law. After St. John’s University President Rev.
Donald J. Harrington, C.M. presented him with an honorary
Doctor of Laws degree, Eugene D. Orza ’73, a longtime advocate for
workers and the former Chief Operating Officer of the Major League
Baseball Players Association, delivered the commencement address. 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, Mr. Orza served as Articles
Editor for the St. John’s Law Review and sowed the seeds
for his future career at the National Labor Relations Board and the
Players Association by helping to establish the Law School’s Labor
Relations and Employment Law Society. In 2003, St. John’s
University awarded him 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.
Addressing the students, Mr. Orza said that he was humbled to
stand before them as they received their law degree from a “truly
great institution with a truly great faculty.” He went on to remark
that no city on earth captures diversity better than New York City
and that the students should not underestimate how much going to
law school amid such diversity will impact and enhance their legal
career. “Stay close to this city,” he said. “Stay close to its
culture, to its museums, to its theaters. Most importantly, stay
close to the people who live and work in this city.” Stressing the
importance of listening to people, Mr. Orza encouraged the students
to “cultivate a way of understanding and perceiving what’s left
unsaid” because “therein is the fruit of settlement.” And
compromise, he asserted, is vital to the promotion of harmony in
Mary Vitale ’12 found these words very inspiring. “I’m glad Mr.
Orza offered us such practical advice,” she said. “That’s exactly
what we need.” Reflecting on the speaker’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.” Sharing more practical wisdom, Mr.
Orza advised the class to “treat every case as if you were the
litigant” and to understand that, even in the smallest of cases,
there are great and lasting lessons for lawyers to learn.
After Mr. Orza closed his remarks,
Thomas J. Principe ’73, President of the Alumni Association
Board of Directors, welcomed the Class of 2012 to the Law School
alumni family. Mr. Principe served as a reservist in the United
States Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Office for 33 years and,
upon his retirement, earned the Army’s Legion of Merit and New York
State’s Conspicuous Service Medal. With pride, he and the entire
crowd acknowledged and applauded those in the graduating class who
have served in the military. Dean Simons then presented outgoing
St. John’s University Provost Julia A.
Upton, RSM, Ph.D. with the Law School Alumni Association’s St.
Thomas More Award for Outstanding Moral Leadership in recognition
of her 12 years of “steady, skillful and supportive leadership that
has enabled us to stay true to our mission.”
Ravin J. Shah ‘12, a member of the Law School’s
Armed Forces Society, shared 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.”
The 2012 Commencement Exercises were dedicated to the memory of
Professor of Law Thomas F. Shea, who passed away in March, 50 years
after graduating from the Law School and 40 years after joining its
faculty. His career is a testament to the commitment to teaching
that continues to define the St. John’s School of Law faculty.