Graduates of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus were honored during graduation ceremonies on Sept. 11. The commencement, which was held at University of South Florida’s Marshall Center, included the opportunity for graduates from previous terms to participate due to cancellations of past in-person ceremonies because of COVID restrictions.
During the commencement, 34 juris doctor degrees were conferred to members of Tampa Bay’s Stanley Matthews Class, and 28 past-term graduates from Michigan’s and Tampa Bay’s campuses participated in the ceremony.
Chosen by her peers, Talece Hunter presented the valedictory remarks. The Hon. Daryl Manning of Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit provided the keynote address.
During her remarks, Hunter, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University and master’s degree from Ohio University spoke about the many issues, including the pandemic that affected the graduates while in law school.
“We probably had he most unique law school experience in law school history. We directly or indirectly survived COVID, depression, racism, and social ethical economic injustice. We survived the U.S. Capitol take over, highly contested elections, natural disasters, and building collapses,” said Hunter. “Rules were broken, ignored and rewritten. Sometimes there were no rules. In fact, much of what we lived through, was lawlessness. Yes, every part of our being is trained to support the rule of law. And maybe it was that lawlessness that helped us truly value the rule of law.”
Hunter explained how these challenges made them better students and ready to practice law. “We made and we are the future. Let’s make sure we have a seat and be the voice of those who are often forgotten. Let’s get into some good trouble. We can use our education and unique law school experiences to make our community a better place.”
Manning shared how the events on September 11, 2001 changed the nation and how those important changes relate to the work of future attorneys.
“September 11th will always be a solemn day of remembrance and reflection,” said Manning. “It is a day that changed our country forever. It will also be a day recognizing your tremendous accomplishments.”
“Just as those brave and courageous passengers on United flight 93 were game changers by fighting back and thwarting the attack of the hijackers, you all can do more. Be a game changer in the law,” Manning continued.
“Congratulations to each of you for your tremendous accomplishments. Take some time to process what you have done and enjoy it. You are well along the way to joining a small community of legal professionals.”
Each class at WMU-Cooley bears the name of a distinguished member of the legal profession. Stanley Matthews, an Ohio native and graduate of Kenyon College, moved to Tennessee, where he passed the bar and began his legal practice at the age of 18. In 1877, as part of a special commission to resolve the issue of contested electoral votes during the presidential election, Matthews was one of the principal spokesmen for Hayes, who eventually won the presidency against Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden. In 1881, President Hayes nominated Matthews to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Justice Noah Swayne.