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School of Law Commencement Celebrates Core Values of SJU

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When Christina Nguyen ’12CPS, ’16L walked across the stage at Carnesecca Arena to become a St. John’s Law graduate, it was a milestone for her and her family. The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and a Queens native, Nguyen chose to attend St. John’s School of Law because of its strong alumni network, ties to the New York legal community, and close-knit environment.“It’s a family that I’m proud to be a part of,” she said.

Nguyen joined 244 fellow J.D. candidates and 46 who received LL.M. degrees at the Commencement exercises, held June 5 on the Queens campus. They became part of the “vast, loyal, and very supportive” alumni network that—as Michael A. Simons J.D., Dean of the School of Law, shared in his Commencement remarks—has been a pillar of the institution for more than 90 years.

Giving back is part of the fabric of St. John’s Law, said Simons. While reading thousands of cases, sitting through hundreds of classes, writing countless papers and outlines, and taking dozens of exams, the Class of 2016 still devoted over 78,000 hours of their own time to pro bono and public service, embodying the commitment to justice at the heart of St. John’s Vincentian mission.

That same commitment to justice distinguishes the career of the Honorable Randall T. Eng ’72, who, after taking the stage to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, addressed the assembled faculty, administrators, graduates, and their families as Commencement speaker. 

Appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2012, Justice Eng became the first Asian American to serve as presiding justice of an Appellate Division in New York State. Throughout his legal career, he has opened doors in almost every position he has held. 

Justice Eng noted that the “great diversity” of today’s graduates did not exist in the legal profession when he first entered, and he recounted how he broke through barriers to fulfill his childhood dream.

Through the years, as he earned a succession of leadership roles off and on the bench, St. John’s alumni were there to guide and to champion him.

While there are still barriers to take down in the legal profession, Justice Eng said, the day will come when “we no longer have to pause and recognize any firsts. That day is on the horizon, and I look forward to seeing it with you.” With a call for the graduates to conduct themselves as “men and women of integrity,” Justice Eng concluded his remarks by assuring graduates that their “success in the law is limited only by your imagination.”

Reflecting on this milestone event, Nguyen said, “Justice Eng’s story was very relatable, especially since, like him, I’m first generation Asian American and the first in my family to become a lawyer. I appreciate his reminder to not let barriers stop me. He sets a wonderful example for me to follow as I transition from law student to practitioner.”