Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro delivers 2017 commencement address

CARLISLE, Pa. — For his first commencement address as Pennsylvania attorney general, Josh Shapiro told graduates of the Dickinson Law class of 2017 that their work will matter to the ones whose lives they impact. The commencement ceremony was held Saturday, May 13, at the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, Dickinson College, in Carlisle.

“Today, you are a critical step closer to joining the legal profession as stewards of our justice system. You will put your knowledge to use, serving your clients, the legal system and the higher ideal of justice,” Shapiro said.

The Commonwealth’s top lawyer continued, “Your role as citizen lawyers, regardless of your particular job, is to commit yourself to the greater good. Your perspective is unique and needed. Change and the strengthening of our democratic institutions requires the participation of each and every one of you — regardless of the path you choose after receiving your diploma today. You see, whether in the public or private sector, you have the chance to not just work on the defining cases of tomorrow, but through the law, help change the culture across artificial boundaries that will heal some of the gaping wounds of our society today.”

Among those in attendance was LeRoy Zimmerman, who for eight years served as Pennsylvania’s first elected attorney general, and was responsible for formulating the legal and law enforcement strategies for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Zimmerman earned his juris doctor from the Dickinson School of Law in 1959. He currently serves as special counsel for Eckert Seamans in Harrisburg and is a member of Dickinson Law’s Board of Overseers.

“It was quite an honor to have not one but two attorneys general join us in celebrating the class of 2017 as they close one chapter of their lives and open another,” said Dickinson Law Dean Gary S. Gildin. “Attorneys General Shapiro and Zimmerman both exemplify our vision of practice greatness and I’m confident our graduates will do the same.”

Zimmerman reflected on his commencement in 1959. “Our ceremony was held in the middle of the Curtilage, the old dormitory, outside of the law school,” he said. “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark handed me my diploma.”

When asked what advice he would share with today’s graduates, Zimmerman said, “Your work as a lawyer evolves and the answers that are on the shelves in the books today may not be the same answers that you need when you have a problem or question to answer for a client. That doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be buying new books; it means that you’re going to be talking about and learning about what the new answers are in the books 10 years from now.”

Graduates Francesca Kester and Joseph Carroll offered remarks during the program. Kester was selected by her peers as the Lee Popp Award recipient for her excellence in service, extracurricular activities and devotion to the class — an award that she said would not have been possible without her classmates. “I am humbled to be recognized for my contributions to the law school community over the last three years, but everything I did, I did with the help from the people you see sitting before me,” she said. “To my classmates who demonstrated leadership in organizations on campus, to those who assisted in the transitioning of school programs to make sure that future classes will thrive, to those who acted on their passions and created new student groups, and to those who came out and showed support at our student run events — the success of these organizations, clubs and student groups would not be possible without you.”

Carroll proudly represented the class of 2017 while offering closing remarks. “Being selected as the commencement speaker by my classmates was a tremendous honor,” Carroll said. “I have been blessed to spend the past three years with the inspiring, diverse and remarkable group of people that make up this class.”

Many of the graduates have accepted offers for employment throughout the country that either require them to pass the bar or for which a juris doctor degree is an advantage. Several will clerk for federal or state court judges; work in government jobs, including military JAG appointments; and work in large, regional and small law firms; in public interest; and in business and industry.

In closing, Shapiro shared, “You have an awesome opportunity and immense power to impact the trajectory of our democracy. Seize this moment and take the mantle of leadership. We all depend on each other. We all depend on you.”

Opening remarks were delivered by Nicholas P. Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost. David Kleppinger, a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, conferred the degrees, which were presented by Dean Gildin and Amy C. Gaudion, assistant dean for graduate and international education at Dickinson Law.

Additional photos from commencement are available on the Dickinson Law Facebook page.

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Last Updated May 22, 2017