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232 Receive Degrees at May 23 Commencement

May 26, 2009

The university welcomed 232 students into the ranks of USF School of Law alumni at the commencement ceremony held May 23 in St. Ignatius Church.

Before a standing room only crowd of friends and family, 203 JD students and 29 LLM students received degrees.

Dean Jeffrey Brand praised the class for its inspiring work and accomplishments in the face of uncertain economic times. "These are extraordinary and difficult times. This has been a year filled with hope in lockstep with concern about the country's future," he said. "In these times, if one wants to know how to maintain one's balance, one's faith, one's optimism, one's belief in all that we can accomplish together, one need look no further than this very smart, very diverse, and very caring Class of 2009."

Civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree. Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families. A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, she began her career in the mid-1960s as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. She used her address to advocate for ending child poverty and urged graduates to use their legal careers to advance the cause of justice.

"One in six of our children live in poverty. Our failure to invest in all of our children is morally reprehensible and extremely costly. Our states are spending three times more on average on prisons than schools. I can't think of a worse investment policy," she said. "With your voice and determination we can change the course of this nation. I hope you will see that you can make an enormous difference."

In his remarks on behalf of the Class of 2009, student speaker Colby Freeman encouraged his fellow graduates to support one another through difficult economic times as they did through the challenging years of law school. "We continue to stand together now facing the toughest economic times of our lives," he said, noting skyrocketing student debt, national unemployment approaching 10 percent, and law firm layoffs. "This doesn't just mean there are fewer jobs. We are competing against lawyers with more experience. But we, the class of 2009, stand together."

At the commencement, Jennifer Baker received the Academic Excellence Award and Jeffrey Kaloustian received the Pursuit of Justice Award.