School of Law Honors Graduates at 2009 Commencement Ceremony

Lexington, VA • Saturday, May 09, 2009

Commencement speaker Lord Nicholas Phillips accepts his walking stick.

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The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 154th commencement on Saturday, May 9 as 138 J.D. degrees and five LL.M. degrees were awarded.

Graduation festivities began Friday afternoon on the Lewis Hall lawn with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks. Bad weather threatened to halt music and fireworks Friday evening, and graduation exercises Saturday morning were moved from the Colonnade lawn to the Warner Center.

The commencement ceremony began at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday with an opening invocation by Douglas Chris Harter, a former pastor and youth minister for the Seventh Day Adventist Church and father of graduating student John Harter. After the official welcome from President Ken Ruscio, Dean Rodney A. Smolla addressed the graduating class.

"As you are leaving, think about why you came to law school," said Dean Smolla. "You came to grow—not into something—but into someone. And that growth will continue throughout your life." The candidates were then awarded their degrees.

This year's commencement address was delivered by Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips, president of the newly formed Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. In his remarks, Lord Phillips addressed the tremendous challenges facing the world, from global terrorism to the economic meltdown, urging the students to fight against reactionary policies that compromise the commitment to the rule of law.

"There is a tendency at times of emergency for the executive to think that the safety of society calls for the suspension of some parts of our law," he told the graduates. "But we cannot hope to preserve our liberty while depriving others of it."

Afterwards, third-year class officers Calvin Awkward and Kate Loudenslagel presented Lord Phillips with his very own walking stick, traditionally given to students at the awards ceremony preceding graduation. The walking stick, or cane, originated in the 1920's as a way to distinguish third-year law students on campus. At that time, only two years of law school were required, and the walking stick served as a way to reward and honor those students who stayed for a third year. 

Special honors at Friday's awards ceremony went to the following students:

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