Wake Forest Law celebrates first Two-Year International JDs, confers hoods on 200-plus graduates

Photo of the Class of 2017 in their cap and gowns in front of the law school.

Class of 2017

The Wake Forest University School of Law conferred hoods on more than 200 graduates on Sunday, May 14, including 177 Juris Doctor degree candidates, 17 International Master of Laws in American Law degree (LLM) candidates, nine Master of Studies in Law (MSL) candidates and four Scientiae Juridicae Doctors (SJD) candidates. The school conferred hoods on its first Two-Year International JD graduates — Julia de la Parra and Santiago Herrera of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Shou Li of Liuzhou, China.

The law school’s 43nd annual hooding speakers, Professor of Practice Steve Garland (JD ‘80)  and Justin Reissman (JD ‘17) were chosen by the Class of 2017 as the faculty and student speakers to address the class at Hooding. Professor Garland was also named by the class as Professor of the Year with Sonya Casstevens, Lead Faculty Administrative Assistant, named as Staff Member of the Year.

Distinguished Faculty Speaker Professor Garland, who is retiring this year, told the Class of 2017 he is convinced the law requires the best of each generation. “You are among the best of yours and the law is lucky to have you,” he said. “As you sit here today as ready to tackle the law as my brother did 40 years ago in the same chairs you are sitting in, the graduating law class of 2017 are the smartest people in this room. I have good grounds when I say you are the smartest people in the room because each of you sits here knowing that you’re not the smartest person in the room. As you start your career it is good to remember the most important trait as a lawyer you can have is your capacity for doubt. This will drive you in your new role as a lawyer … and we will be proud of you to the maximum.”

Reissman thanked the faculty, staff and administrators of the law school along with his classmates and then asked the question, “Do Americans believe in justice for all?

“When I made it back to school I began to see the law could and should be used to fight for the rights of many, not just the few. Our class would transform a group of loose pro bono projects into a cohesive program. In the past year we grew the program by 5,376 hours of pro bono work — that’s close to one quarter of all pro bono hours logged in history of law school; 71 percent of our class participated in pro bono work. We helped expand justice and the culture of the law school proving that justice for all is not a phrase that rings empty to Class of 2017.  Wake Forest Law provided an atmosphere where students are encouraged to collaborate not compete with each other and to help those in need. We are a class of action and we will continue to strive to meet the ideal of justice for all. Growing up I didn’t know any lawyers but now I feel extremely honored to know so many. These graduates have changed me for the better, Wake Forest Law for the better and I know they will change the world for the better.”

You can listen to both speeches at livestream.com/wfu/2017lawhooding.

Dean Suzanne Reynolds (JD ’77) described this class as remarkable, in part, because “our National Moot Court team won the national championship and our AAJ Trial Team won the national championship. We believe we are the first to win both championships in the same the year and we know it is the first time to have one student with two national championships under her belt. Way to go Mia Falzarano!”

Dean Reynolds acknowledged it is a bittersweet day because she recognized the retirement of Professor Joel Newman after 41 years as well as the retirement of Professor Garland.

Executive Associate Dean Jonathan Cardi administered the oath and congratulated the class of 2017, which received a standing ovation from family and friends in the audience.

Professor Laura Graham (JD ‘94) conferred the hoods. Following the placing of the hoods, Dean Reynolds, saying it takes a village to raise a law students, recognized the moms, especially since it was Mother’s Day, dads, “long-suffering spouses and children,” among others, for their support of the law graduates.

“As you graduate as a lawyer the times remind me of what drew so many of us Baby Boomers to the law…for the first time since 2008, I hear what a wonderful time to go to law school. The world is turning to us to teach this national civics class. We as a nation we need to listen to each other. You, the Class of 2017, you will play a special role in this national civics class. I also want to remind you that you are always ours and we are better because of you.”

Diplomas will be distributed in the Worrell Professional Center on Monday, May 16, following Commencement exercises on Hearn Plaza. “Just Mercy” author Bryan Stevenson is scheduled to speak to the law school community at 11 a.m. in the Law Commons after receiving his honorary degree.

Wake Forest University provides the recording of Commencement at livestream.com/wfu/2017commencement.

The ceremony, which included the bestowing of numerous awards, was followed by the Dean’s Hooding Reception at the Millennium Center in downtown Winston-Salem.

Graduating with the Magna Cum Laude distinction are: Kyleigh Elizabeth Feehs, Eric Preston Jones, Whitney Ruth Pakalka, Sarah Margaret Saint, Blake Edward Stafford and Ethan Reed White.

Graduating with the Cum Laude distinction are: Taylor Dean Anderson, Eric Philip Benedict, Matthew Thomas Brown, Mia Lucienne Falzarano, Daniel Thomas Fowler Jr., Emma Katherine Haddock, Jessica Anne Hajjar, Lauren Blaine Henderson, Santiago Herrera, Emily Catherine Jeske, Matthew Joseph Kerschner, Malorie Elyse Letcavage, Valerie Amanda Mock,  Adam Tyler Nyenhuis, Molly Dale Pearce, Jonathan David Silver, Daniel D. Stratton, Cara Whittaker Van Dorn, Amanda Marie Whorton, Joshua Taylor Winks and Chelsea Alexis Wood.

Wake Forest Law has been awarded a chapter of the Order of the Coif, a national membership society, honoring the academic excellence of our program, faculty and students. An Order of the Coif chapter at a law school is akin to a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at a college. Student eligibility for membership in the Order of the Coif is restricted to those in the top 10 percent of a graduating class: Taylor Dean Anderson, Matthew Thomas Brown, Mia Lucienne Falzarano, Kyleigh Elizabeth Feehs, Daniel Thomas Fowler Jr., Lauren Blaine Henderson, Emily Catherine Jeske, Eric Preston Jones, Matthew Joseph Kerschner, Whitney Ruth Pakalka, Molly Dale Pearce, Sarah Margaret Saint, Blake Edward Stafford, Daniel D. Stratton, Ethan Reed White, Amanda Marie Whorton, Joshua Taylor Winks and Chelsea Alexis Wood.

Among the award winners are:

Angela Ruth Sheets of King, North Carolina, received the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Award from the North Carolina Chapter.

Taylor Dean Anderson of Cumberland, Maryland, received the American Bar Association Section of Urban, State and Local Government Law Award for the highest grade in the course.

Joel Anderson Berly IV of Charleston, South Carolina, received the American Bar Association and Bloomberg BNA Award for Excellence in the Study of Health Law.

Amanda Marie Whorton of Jacksonville, Florida, received the American Bar Association’s Section of Intellectual Property Law and Bloomberg BNA Award for the student who achieves the highest grade among the courses of Intellectual Property, Copyright and Trademarks.

•  Sarah Margaret Saint of Huntsville, Alabama, received the American Bar Association and Bloomberg BNA Award for Excellence in the Study of Labor and Employment Law, which is given to the students who achieve the highest grade in the course.

Stephanie Althea Jackson of Findlay, Ohio, received the Dean’s Award, which is given to honor the extraordinary contributions of a student leader.

Christopher Joseph Salemme of Westfield, New Jersey, received the E. McGruder Faris Memorial Award, which is given to the student exhibiting the highest standards of character, leadership and scholarship.

Meredith Elizabeth Pace of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, received the Forsyth County Women Attorneys Association Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding female graduate based upon her academic achievements, leadership, service to community, professionalism and commitment to the legal profession.

Grace Alexandra Sykes of Durham, North Carolina, received the Laura J. Gendy Award, an award that was established by alumni, family and friends of Laura J. Gendy (JD’ 00) to provide an annual cash award to a graduating law student who exemplifies integrity, compassion for others and strength of character that were the hallmarks of Gendy, who died in August 2008.

Daniel D. Stratton of Carrollton, Georgia, and Mia Lucienne Falzarano of New York, New York, received the Robert Goldberg Award in Trial Advocacy, which honors the memory of Robert Goldberg, a student at the School of Law, who was killed in World War II. It is an annual cash award given to the students showing the highest aptitude and ethics in trial advocacy.

Whitney Ruth Pakalka of Houston, Texas, received the I. Beverly Lake Award, which was established in honor of I. Beverly Lake Sr., professor of law at Wake Forest University, practicing attorney, assistant attorney general of North Carolina 1951-1955, and retired Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. An annual cash award is given to the student or students in the law school exhibiting the greatest proficiency in the study of Constitutional Law.

Emily Catherine Jeske of Clemmons, North Carolina, received the National Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Student Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding law graduate at each American Bar Association-approved law school.

Sarah Margaret Saint of Huntsville, Alabama, received the North Carolina State Bar Student Pro Bono Service Award, which is presented annually to a student who has contributed time and talent to law-related service.

•  Christopher Joseph Salemme of Westfield, New Jersey, received the Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service, which is presented annually to a student who is a Pro Bono Honor Society member, whose pro bono service must have resulted in a demonstrated impact on increasing access to legal information to the under-served population.

Photos of the Hooding Ceremony and Commencement can be viewed on the law school’s Instagram account and also Flickr.