Commencement speakers urge Law School grads to value relationships and integrity

May 13, 2013

The Law School at Penn State celebrated 198 juris doctorate and 43 master of law graduates at its 134th commencement on Saturday, May 11. Commencement activities included a Friday afternoon reception, commencement ceremonies in University Park and Carlisle, and a picnic lunch. Four students received joint juris doctorate/master of business administration degrees and four students received joint juris doctorate/master of international affairs degrees at University Park.

The ceremonies featured student speakers Laura Magnotta, Casey Gillespie, and Sarah Woolf. Mitchell Klein, a 1987 graduate of the Law School of The Dickinson School of Law, spoke on behalf of the Alumni Society. 

University President Rod Erickson delivered opening remarks to the University Park class commending graduates on their commitment to public service citing the work of the Public Interest Law Fellows among other initiatives. He said the graduates are well prepared to “help the country and the world move forward” because of their character and generosity of spirit.


The Honorable D. Brooks Smith 

Commencement speaker the Honorable D. Brooks Smith, who is celebrating his 25th year on the federal court of appeals, talked about the importance of working hard to forge relationships, “something that is so obvious we take it for granted.” Judge Smith, who is member of the Law School Class of 1978, said that while understanding and practicing law is critical, he emphasized that “no one can go it alone.” He urged students to seek out mentors that have struggled and survived hardships as role models and advisers. “What we do is not just work, but a vocation,” he said counseling graduates to always determine “how their work fits somehow into a greater good.”

Prior to recognizing the master of law graduates, Dean Philip McConnaughay honored Professor Louis F. Del Duca for 57 years of service to the law school; Professor Del Duca founded the master of law program in 1968. Dean McConnaughay received a standing ovation for his leadership of the law school over the past decade. 

The University Park ceremony concluded with remarks from Sarah Woolf, a 2013 Penn State Law graduate, who battled cancer during her three years at Penn State Law. "You only have one life, make it count," she said.

The Honorable Ronald D. Castille

Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court told graduates in Carlisle that there is no limit to what they can achieve through will and perseverance. He shared his personal story of fulfilling his dream of getting a law school education by overcoming the loss of a leg as a result of injuries suffered in Vietnam. "Today I stand before you as Chief Justice of the great state of Pennsylvania; the lesson to be learned is that serious obstacles may be placed in the path to your career to your success, but if you have the will and you persevere, you too can achieve success despite any obstacle placed in your path."

After hurdling the bar exam, Judge Castille reminded graduates to always keep in mind the rules of professional conduct under which all attorneys are governed. "While the bar exam can test your basic competence to be a lawyer, it’s much more difficult to test a person’s character and fitness to practice law. You will be judged your entire career on your moral character and your fitness to practice law. Always remember that!" 

Graduates and families joined the faculty and staff of the Law School for a post-ceremony reception.

View Carlisle slide show

View University Park slide show

  • Michael McLaughlin and Hayley McElhinney, both members of the Class of 2013, sang the national anthem.
    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015