In August 2019, the Law School's newest J.D. students marked the start of their legal studies by posing for a group selfie with Dean Michael A. Simons at St. John's D'Angelo Center. Last Sunday, one door down at the legendary Carnesecca Arena, the J.D. and LL.M. Class of 2022 processed down the aisle in tams and gowns and, as family and friends cheered from packed stands, crossed the Commencement stage one by one, donned ceremonial hoods, and descended the stairs as the newest St. John's Law graduates.
The three years between those two milestones were unprecedented. Just over six months into the J.D. graduates’ first year, New York City sheltered in place and St. John’s Law moved all classes and operations online. “You are the pandemic class,” Dean Simons said as he addressed the Commencement celebrants. That’s a matter of fact, as is the perseverance the class displayed as they navigated remote learning and their eventual return to campus. From far and near, they briefed thousands of cases, took hundreds of courses, wrote dozens of exams, and devoted over 40,000 hours to serving underrepresented and marginalized New Yorkers.
View Commencement 2022 Photo Album
“Along the way, you’ve become lawyers,” Dean Simons said, adding that the graduates are ready to enter a profession that sorely needs them, to represent people who are at the heart of every lawyer’s work, and to use the power of the law to serve the greater good. He then introduced New York City Schools Chancellor David C. Banks ’93, who took center stage to receive the Dean Harold McNiece Award, which is presented to a St. John’s Law alumnus in recognition of outstanding achievement in a field other than the practice of law.
In his remarks to the graduates, Chancellor Banks shared that his St. John’s legal education is the bedrock of his career as an innovative educator. That vocation took him from his New York City upbringing to teaching in Brooklyn’s public schools. He went on to become founding principal at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice before launching the Eagle Academy for Young Men, the first public single-sex boys’ school to open in New York City in about 30 years and a model for schools locally and nationally.
Today, as Chancellor, he leads the largest public school system in the nation and the world. The work, he said, is a call to serve the city’s one million school children and help them reach their potential. Citing our nation’s deep divides and the graduates’ opportunity to address them, Chancellor Banks asked, “What kind of person do you want to be? Are you committed to giving back?” Behind those questions was a simple message that he shared in closing his remarks and congratulating the Class of 2022: “Just care. If you care that deeply, you can truly change the world. And we need you!”