“You have earned the right to be enormously proud of what you’ve accomplished. Today you embark on the noblest of professions with so much promise.” That was the message Hon. Janet DiFiore ’81L, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the State of New York, relayed to graduates during her address at the annual St. John’s University School of Law Commencement Exercises.
The ceremony, held June 4 in Carnesecca Arena, saw 215 J.D. and 57 LL.M. candidates receive their degrees. Judge DiFiore also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
“The law school you are graduating from today is stronger and better than when you arrived, with rising student credentials, rising employment rates, and rising alumni support,” Michael A. Simons, Dean, St. John’s School of Law, said during welcoming remarks to the graduates and more than 3,000 guests.
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Dean Simons noted that graduates honored the University’s Vincentian mission by devoting more than 50,000 hours to pro bono and public service work. Along the way, Dean Simons said, they became lawyers who are ready to seize the “opportunity to do good” and “use the power of the profession to achieve justice.”
Looking back on the journey that has taken her from St. John’s School of Law to Westchester County District Attorney to the leadership of a court system that serves some 20 million New Yorkers, Judge DiFiore expressed gratitude for the “first-rate legal education” she received as she was “mentored and inspired by legendary professors” while learning what it meant to be a competent and ethical professional.
Several graduates were recognized with top honors: Alexandra Struzzieri ’17L received the Joseph Kerzner Award for achieving the highest cumulative grade point average in the graduating J.D. class. Michael Farinacci ’17L earned the Esterina Giuliani Award for the highest cumulative grade point average in the evening division.
Andrew Butler ’17LLM, Spyridon Arsenis ’17LLM, and Juan Yu ’17LLM received awards for earning the highest cumulative grade point average in the Bankruptcy, International Sports Law Practice, and Transnational Legal Practice LL.M. programs, respectively. Ioana Miller ’17LLM and Vitaliia Yurchak ’17LLM tied for top honors in the US Legal Studies LL.M. program.
Reflecting on the milestone occasion she shared with her family and classmates, Olivia Cheung ’11C, ’17L observed, “I’m very grateful for the opportunities that St. John’s Law has given me and for the relationships I’ve cultivated here. It was inspiring to hear Judge DiFiore affirm that St. John’s has trained our hearts as well as our minds. I will carry her call to do meaningful and impactful work with me as I continue along my professional path."