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Law School Celebrates Commencement 2018

Commencement Speaker Preet Bharara
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

On Sunday June 3, 2018, 227 J.D. candidates, 63 LL.M candidates, and their 3000 guests joined faculty, administrators, and alumni for the 2018 Commencement Exercises at St. John’s Carnesecca Arena.

Welcoming the celebrants, Dean Michael A. Simons noted that the Class of 2018 graduates from a St. John’s Law that is stronger and better than it was when they arrived, with “a higher academic profile, a flood of new applications, higher employment rates, and one of the highest bar passage rates in the state.” These achievements wouldn’t be possible, he continued, without the unwavering support of the University leadership, loyal St. John’s Law alumni, and dedicated Law School faculty

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In addition to reading thousands of cases, sitting through hundreds of classes, writing countless papers and outlines, and taking dozens of exams, Dean Simons said to the graduates, “you’ve rolled up your sleeves and done the actual work of lawyers” to fulfill St. John’s Vincentian mission. Together, the Class of 2018 devoted over 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 to use the power of the profession to achieve justice.

That same commitment to serving the public, uprooting corruption, and advocating for justice has defined the career of Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He took the stage to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws before addressing the graduates as this year’s commencement speaker. 

Acknowledging that being a lawyer, and an officer of the court, is a “titanic responsibility,” Bharara noted that every great and influential lawyer has always had “not just an angle mind, but also guts and heart.” Although it can be “heart stopping and difficult” at times, he called on the graduates to “seize opportunities to lead” and to be not just a good lawyer, but a good person who is honorable, courageous, respectful, and true to their word.

Echoing Dean Simons remarks, Bharara also urged the graduates to find some way to serve other people, and to show that lawyers can make a difference. “The virtue of serving the public cannot be overstated,” he said, sharing political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke’s observation that “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” Wishing them congratulations and good luck, Bharara left the graduates with this thought: “Great lawyers have never been more important than now. The rule of law has never been more important than now. And good leaders have never been more important than now. That means you!”

The candidates then came on stage for the traditional hooding ceremony and conferral of their degrees. Several were recognized for achieving top honors in their graduating class:

Kathryn Baldwin '18 received the Joseph Kerzner award for achieving the highest cumulative grade point average in the J.D. program.

Christine Chu '18 earned the Esterina Giuliani Award for the highest cumulative grade point average in the Evening Division.

Daniel Thomson '18LL.M. and Agnes Opoku-Barnieh '18LL.M. received awards for earning the highest cumulative grade point average in the Bankruptcy and Transnational Legal Practice LL.M. programs, respectively. And Saverio Lo Monaco '18LL.M. received top honors in the U.S. Legal Studies LL.M. program.

“It was very inspiring to hear Preet Bharara’s call to do good and to uplift others in our work as lawyers,” said Gabrielle Schwartz '18, reflecting on the milestone occasion she shared with her family and classmates. “I had many opportunities to volunteer and assist those in need through the Public Interest Center at St. John’s Law, and I’ve benefitted from those experiences immensely. I’ll carry them and my commitment to service with me as I build a meaningful and rewarding career in the law.” 


Sidebar: 2018 Law School Grads Carry On a Proud Tradition of Public Service
Just two years ago, Maria Stamatelatos '18 (L) and Katherine Sullivan '18 (R) sat together in a courtroom, watching a domestic violence felony trial. “We were riveted,” Sullivan recalls of their 1L summer internship at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. “Maria and I were chosen to assist the trial ADA with everything from legal research, to jury selection, to closing arguments. It was great.”

This shared, hands-on work experience deepened a friendship that Sullivan and Stamatelatos forged at St. John’s Law as members of the same first-year study group. Pursuing a mutual interest in criminal law, Stamatelatos honed her research and writing skills on the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development and Sullivan on the St. John’s Law Review. Both also participated in the Law School’s mock trial and clinical programs, gaining fluency as advocates.

So, naturally, they were thrilled for one another when they got their dream jobs. This fall, Stamatelatos starts as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County. “This is a job where I can really make a difference in someone’s life, which is what drew me to the legal profession to begin with,” she says. “My father is an attorney, and he has always inspired me to follow my passion, to be kind to others, and to help those in need. I can accomplish all of those things at Legal Aid.” Sullivan will also follow in her father’s—and grandfather’s—footsteps when she starts as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office this fall. “I’m excited to get into the courtroom, and to work to keep New York City, and my fellow New Yorkers, safe and secure,” she says.

As they crossed the commencement stage at Carnesecca Arena on Sunday, June 3, 2018, Sullivan and Stamatelatos joined many other members of the Class of 2018 who are launching their legal careers in and around the New York metropolitan area with public interest organizations, judges, JAG Corps, District Attorneys’ Offices, and other government agencies, including the New York City Law Department.