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Cooley Holds Winter Commencement for Lansing and Tampa Bay Campuses

Graduates of Cooley Law School’s Lansing and Tampa Bay campuses were honored during graduation ceremonies at Michigan State University’s Wharton Center's Pasant Theatre on Dec. 15 and Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay Campus Auditorium on Dec. 16, respectively. 

Sixty-four juris doctor degrees and nine master of laws degrees were presented to members of the law school’s Distinguished Professor Emeritus Peter M. Kempel and Justice Thomas Douglas classes among both campuses. 

In Michigan, student speaker remarks were made by (left to right) Melissa Bianchi of the Kempel Class, and Adam Ostrander and Jose Flores of the Douglas Class. Judge Kellen Dotson of 61st District Court was the keynote speaker. 


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Cooley student speaker
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Student Speaker
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Student Speaker
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Cooley graduation keynote speaker

In Florida, student speaker remarks were made by Christina Sabella (on right) of the Kempel Class and Sydni Rease (on left) of the Douglas Class, while Scott Westheimer, president of The Florida Bar, delivered the keynote speech.

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Florida Keynote Speaker
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Each Cooley Law School class is named for a distinguished member of the legal profession. The commencement ceremony for Cooley’s summer and winter graduating classes honor Distinguished Professor Emeritus Peter M. Kempel and Justice Thomas Douglas, respectively.

While earning his law degree, Professor Kempel was the law librarian and instructor in legal research at the University of Detroit School of Law. After he served as a research attorney for the Michigan Court of Appeals, he clerked for former Associate Supreme Court Justice Michael D. O’Hara, then sitting on the Court of Appeals. In 1973, Professor Kempel joined Cooley Law School and started his career of 40 years as the director of Library and Research Services. He served as chair of the State Bar Libraries and as president of Legal Aid of Central Michigan. A member of the Cooley Legal Authors Society, Professor Kempel taught Legal Research, Family Law, Jurisprudence, Legislation, Legislative Drafting, Contracts, Sales & Negotiable Instruments, Evidence, Trial Practice, Professional Responsibility, and Legal Ethics for over 26 years. 

Thomas Douglas, the first Justice of the court and its first chief justice, was born in 1790 in Wallingford, Conn. Douglas’ father was a shoemaker and farmer, but Douglas as a young man tried to find a better life as an attorney for himself and his wife, Hannah Sanford. Douglas began “reading law” to earn his license to practice, and succeeded in being elected a judge in Jefferson County, Ind., before he was even licensed to practice. As a result, Florida’s first chief justice began working as a judge before he ever practiced as a lawyer. In 1826, President John Quincy Adams appointed Douglas U.S. District Attorney for East Florida -- a post he held until he was named to the Florida Supreme Court in 1845.

Dec 20 2023