WMU-Cooley Law School presented 39 graduates with Juris Doctor degrees during the law school’s winter commencement for its Tampa Bay campus. The ceremony was held Jan. 12 at the University of South Florida College of Music Auditorium.
During the ceremony, Katherine Gennelle Chatman provided the valedictory remarks and The Hon. Catherine McEwen, U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge for the Middle District of Florida, provided the keynote.
Chatman began her remarks by acknowledging the family and friends who were in the audience. She said, “I find it important that we acknowledge our villages. Each of you sitting in the audience is to be praised for the love, the patience, the support that you provided each one of us throughout our law school time. We are the sum total of every laugh, every smile, every tear, and every prayer.”
Pictured from left to right: WMU-Cooley Law School Interim President Jeffrey Martlew; Hon. Catherine McEwen, U.S. Bankruptcy judge for the Middle District of Florida; graduate and valedictory speaker Katherine Gennelle Chatman; and Tampa Bay campus immediate past Associate Dean Ronald Sutton.
Speaking to her classmates, Chatman spoke about the importance of being good to others and finding purpose while practicing law. “It doesn't cost a single cent to be good to the people around you. It keeps you healthy,” she said. “Find your purpose in this world and live recklessly in your pursuit of it. Forget the money. Forget the fame. Forget the social ladder. If you're doing what you love, the money will come and it will never feel like work. We've worked entirely too hard to not be madly in love with what we do every single day.”
Before speaking to the graduates, McEwen addressed the law school’s administration and professors by saying, “Your students are wonderful representatives of the law school. I encounter them in the hallways, in general assemblies relating to various legal organizations or topics, and as interns. They are excited to be – or have been – in law school.”
McEwen told the graduates, “Your degree, coupled with bar admission, both unleashes in you an enormous power and subjects you to a considerable responsibility in the wielding of that power.”
Speaking about the investment law students make by giving of their time and resources to attend law school, McEwen said, “Your investment won’t end here or even with your bar admission. That is because of what the oath of admission represents. This requires you to make the oath second nature by emulating every day, every day, every day, the qualities that are basic to our profession.”
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 (justices before him had either “read law” – a form of apprenticeship in a law firm – or had attended law school without receiving a degree). Additionally, he is 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.