WMU-Cooley Law School honored its winter term graduates during a commencement ceremony on Jan. 19 at the MSU Auditorium in East Lansing. During graduation for the law school’s Michigan campuses (Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids, and Lansing), 76 Juris Doctor and 5 Master of Laws degrees were bestowed.
Chosen by her classmates, Mary Anne Simmering of the Grand Rapids campus provided the valedictory remarks. Mary Massaron, a partner at Plunkett Cooney law firm, provided the keynote. WMU-Cooley Interim President Jeff Martlew awarded James Allen with the James E. Burns Memorial Award for graduating summa cum laude. Heather Bowens was presented with the President’s Achievement Award.
Pictured, from left, Interim WMU-Cooley President Jeffrey Martlew, Mary Anne Simmering, James Allen, Heather Bowens, Mary Massaron, and Interim Dean Amy Timmer.
While speaking to her classmates, Simmering said, “I feel so blessed to have attended WMU-Cooley, and I’m guessing all of you do too. At the start of this journey I had no idea how much the people I would learn the law from, and the people I would learn the law with, would come to mean to me.”
Talking about her classmates’ diversity, Simmering said she was honored to be alongside her classmates who worked hard to overcome the obstacles in the path of their dreams. “I have been impressed by our classmates dealing with autism, blindness, a two-and-half hour drive each way to attend class, full-time jobs with night and weekend classes, having babies during law school, and the inspiration goes on and on. Each of you has a story about why you are here and how you made it this far. Your stories are incredible. Thank you for the honor of being in the trenches with you during law school and walking beside you today.”
During the keynote, Massaron spoke to the graduates about their roles as attorneys. She said, “When you become a lawyer you are starting out on a journey – a professional journey that will be not only a job, but an opportunity to serve in a profession that has played a pivotal role in the shaping of our American democracy.”
Massaron also noted that those graduating from law school now are doing so during some of the nation’s most challenging times. “You are graduating from law school at a difficult time in this country – one during which harsh polemics are all-too-often replacing reasoned discourse and the partisan nature of public discussion about legal proceedings and judicial selection threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the courts and of our democratic institutions,” she said.
Each class at WMU-Cooley bears the name of a distinguished member of the legal profession. This graduating class is named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis. Appointed by President Millard Fillmore, Curtis was the first Supreme Court justice who graduated from law school and the only justice who resigned from the high court on a matter of principle. After serving the court, he returned to private practice, taught at Harvard Law School and authored books on decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.