It takes about six steps to get up to the graduation stage in St. John’s Carnesecca Arena and around a dozen more to cross it. But, as Dean Michael A. Simons shared with celebrants at the Law School’s Commencement Exercises on Sunday, June 6, 2021, that short walk is deeply symbolic.
Whether made in real time at one of this year’s three in-person ceremonies, or virtually during the online ceremony, those strides marked the completion of legal studies unlike any in the history of St. John’s Law as the J.D. and LL.M. degree recipients in the graduating Class of 2021 navigated life and learning in a global pandemic.
View photos from the 9 a.m. ceremony
View photos from the 12 p.m. ceremony
View photos from the 3 p.m. ceremony
That experience, Dean Simons said, made it abundantly clear how much law matters, and how much lawyers matter: “Law is power. And if that power is going to be used for good, it must be wielded by people who are committed to the common good,” he observed, adding that the graduates’ moral leadership during the past year demonstrated their readiness to assume the power of the legal profession.
With their notable achievements in classrooms, in clinics, and in the field, St. John’s newest lawyers also showed that they can persevere through hardship, uncertainty, and adversity to emerge resilient, with a strong sense of purpose rooted in relationships. “Nurture those relationships,” Dean Simons advised, because life and career are ultimately about people—family, friends, colleagues, and clients.
Putting the practice of law in broader perspective was also the theme of remarks delivered by faculty speakers at each of the four Commencement ceremonies. Addressing the students she taught as 1Ls in Constitutional Law II, Professor Rosemary Salomone encouraged them to “widen [their] lens on issues of the day” as they practice law in a world that is “growing smaller and more interconnected by the nanosecond.”
As he congratulated his former Contracts students, Professor Christopher Borgen said that they each deserve “a Ph.D. in resilience.” Looking ahead, and quoting the the writer George Saunders, he urged them to be “defiantly and joyfully” the person and lawyer they want to be. Life and law also merged in Professor Marc DeGirolami’s remarks to his former 1L Torts class. Welcoming the return of person-to-person proximity and fellowship, he drew on the elements of negligence and spoke of duty: duty to observe, uphold, and improve the law; duty to give of yourself in full; and duty to “know others, and be known by them.”
Participants in the culminating virtual ceremony heard from Professor Rachel Smith, who emphasized the importance of making “deep human connections.” She also reminded the graduates that, in their next life chapter, they are not alone and can rely on their St. John’s connections. That same message was imparted by Michelle Johnson ’05 and Alain Massena ’00, who represented the Law School Alumni Association leadership at the ceremonies. As Johnson summed it up for the graduates: “We are forever your alumni family.”
All four of the 2021 Commencement ceremonies can be viewed online, along with the full Commencement program and a listing of student award recipients.