Graduation Profile: Kenny Cushing (’15)

Photo of Kenny Cushing ('15) and soon-to-be finance Erin on plane about to take off to Charleston, S.C.

Kenny Cushing ('15) and his soon-to-be fiance, Erin, prepare to take off on a flight to Charleston, S.C., on which he proposed. Piloting the plane was Professor Michael Green, who donated the flight to the Annual PILO Auction.

Kenny Cushing (’15), Symposium Editor for the Wake Forest Law Review, has been selected by his third-year classmates to be this year’s Hooding Speaker along with Professor Timothy Davis.

Cushing, a native of High Point, N.C., is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame, where he majored in Psychology. Following graduation, he served one year as a volunteer teacher at Nativity Prep in New Bedford, MA. He then coached college football at Southwest Minnesota State University and Presentation College for two years each before entering law school at Wake Forest. He plans to work at Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia beginning in September. He is engaged to Erin Ullmann and they plan to marry in November.

“Kenny has been a privilege to teach and to mentor,” Professor Michael Green says. “I count myself fortunate to have become his friend as well. He has gravitas and is a perfect blend of intelligence, kindness, savvy and humility. His classmates revealed their wisdom in selecting him as their graduation speaker.”

What inspired you to take up your field of study?

During the summer before my senior year, I traveled to Bangkok to serve as a Maryknoll volunteer through a program sponsored by the University of Notre Dame. During my stay, I was fortunate to work on a variety of projects, including teaching English in Buddhist temples; working with children, many of whom were orphans of Burmese refugees; visiting prisons; and assisting NGOs with social development and social justice projects. The experience was invaluable, and opened my eyes to the importance of representing and advocating for others, particularly those that need it most. Although I didn’t decide to attend law school for another five years, that summer experience is what eventually inspired me to study law at Wake Forest. I thought that law school could improve my advocacy skills so that I could use the law to help individuals and to make positive changes in society.

Who at the University encouraged you along the path to your degree?

My most important mentor at Wake Forest Law is Professor Michael Green. He was my first-semester Torts professor, and has since become a mentor and a friend. During that first semester, I spent much time in his office, or over lunch, discussing questions from class. When he found out I was looking to work in Philadelphia, he offered to make a few calls and set me up with some of his connections in the city. Those connections led to a summer internship with a judge, which eventually led me to the job I will start in September. I was a teaching assistant for him my third year, and even asked my fiancé (Erin) to marry me on his plane on a trip to Charleston I won the bid for in the annual Public Interest Law Organization (PILO) auction. Erin and I have even been to his home to visit he and his wife during Christmas break. The impact he has had on my life already is unmeasurable. I plan on staying in touch with Professor Green for many years and am extremely grateful for all of his advice and help during my time here. From my experience, its not unusual at all for students to have this kind of personal relationship with professors at Wake Forest Law. It is one of the reasons I felt like Wake Forest Law was a great fit for me initially, and professors like Mike Green, and others, that have gone the extra mile so many times have made Wake Forest Law out to be more than I could have ever expected.

What class did you enjoy most and why?

I had many enjoyable classes. My favorite class was NCAA Rules Compliance & Enforcement with Professor Tim Davis and WFU Associate Athletic Director Todd Hairston. We had great discussion on timely topics and had very practical legal training. It also gave me a chance to vent when Notre Dame was losing football games. The class was especially interesting for me because of my prior career as a college football coach. I also really enjoyed Law, Business, and the American Economy with Professor Tanya Marsh and Professor Ann Lipton, as well as Negotiations with Professor Ralph Peeples.

Did you have time for extracurricular activities?

In addition to Law Review, I was a Student Bar Association representative, and helped with the Academic Success Program. I also worked as a teaching assistant for three classes. Finally, I enjoyed competing in many intramural sports with my classmates: football, basketball, soccer, and tennis.

What does earning this degree mean to you?

To me, this degree carries a special distinction and responsibility. Public perception of lawyers can often make for an easy punchline, but this degree signifies an ability to advocate for others and help shape the law in America. It also gives me a greater responsibility to not only respect, but challenge, the law. Instead of accepting answers at face value, a lawyer can challenge the reasoning and policy behind laws–instead of accepting “no,” a lawyer wants to know what must be done to change that answer to “yes.” I’m very proud of the work that our class put in to making this degree so valuable and am excited to see the many ways we will use our new degrees to find “success.” I’m thrilled to be able to associate myself and my future with my classmates and with Wake Forest Law.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m taking the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams in July, moving to Philly in August, starting work at Pepper Hamilton in September, and getting married in November.

Professor Michael Green donates a free flight and dinner in Charleston, S.C., to a lucky PILO Auction winner. This year it was Kenny Cushing ('15).

Professor Michael Green donates a free flight and dinner in Charleston, S.C., to a lucky PILO Auction winner. This year it was Kenny Cushing (’15).