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St. John’s School of Law Celebrates Commencement 2014

Left to right: Law Commencement speaker Elisa D. Garcia C. and Dean Michael A. Simons
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whatever path they choose in their legal careers, attorneys always will benefit from standing behind “a firm set of values,” Elisa D. Garcia C. ’85L, executive vice president and chief legal officer for Office Depot, Inc., advised graduates on June 1 at St. John’s School of Law’s 2014 Commencement Exercises.

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Garcia addressed the 257 J.D. candidates and 54 LL.M. candidates who received their degrees during exercises at Carnesecca Arena on the Queens, NY, campus, which included some 3,000 family, friends, faculty, administrators, staff, and alumni in the St. John’s Law community in attendance.

Welcoming the graduates and their guests, Dean Michael A. Simons said the Class of 2014 can be especially proud of the over 60,000 hours of pro bono work they collectively have volunteered to assist the poor and marginalized through the Law School’s clinics and service initiatives—service embodying St. John’s Vincentian mission. “The lawyer has what the ordinary citizen does not,” he said, referring to the attorney’s authority and obligation to speak for those who otherwise would lack a voice in the legal system.

With this call to build a meaningful life in the law, Simons introduced Garcia. “Act with courage and integrity,” she encouraged the graduates. She also emphasized the importance of building a support network of peers while seeing the “bigger picture” of opportunities available to them.

Garcia went on to observe that much had changed since she walked the halls of St. John’s Law. Today, for example, more than 30 percent of the School’s incoming class identify themselves as “minority.” What remains the same, she said, is St. John’s proud tradition of training so many New Yorkers who are the first in their families to enter the legal profession.

Born in Brooklyn, Garcia grew up in Queens and Long Island. She was the first in her family to attend college, receiving a joint BA/MS in political science and management and policy sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Garcia’s lifelong interest in politics brought her to St. John’s Law, where her interests turned to corporate and securities law. It was here that she met her classmate and future husband, John Hasluck '85L.

Following law school, Garcia began her career as a corporate associate at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, a firm with deep St. John’s roots. She was named Office Depot’s general counsel in 2007. At Office Depot, Garcia manages legal, regulatory, compliance, loss prevention, and government affairs matters worldwide. Recently, she led the team that secured the Federal Trade Commission’s unconditional approval of Office Depot’s merger with OfficeMax. Following the merger, Garcia was named executive vice president and chief legal officer of the combined company.

As the graduates came on stage for the traditional hooding ceremony and conferral of their degrees, several were recognized for achieving top honors:

  • Alison Megan Boyle ’14 received the Joseph Kerzner Prize for the highest cumulative grade point average in the graduating J.D. class
  • Rebecca Lowry received the Esterina Giuliani Award for the highest cumulative grade point average in the Evening Division
  • Nasser Alshehri, Alexandra Jessica Beierlein, Devin Burke Hahn, and James Michael Mungavin received awards for the highest cumulative grade point averages in the Transnational Legal practice, U.S. Legal Studies, Bankruptcy, and International and Comparative Sports Law LL.M. programs, respectively

Alumni Association President Nicholas M. Cannella ’75L closed the ceremony by welcoming the Class of 2014 to the strong, diverse, and close-knit St. John’s Law alumni family: “We hope you join us, since we trust you will benefit from doing so,” he said. “Even now, you cannot do it alone —and neither can those who will follow you in subsequent graduating classes.”