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Detroit Mercy Law Commencement Features Chief Judge Denise Page Hood

DETROIT, Mich. – University of Detroit Mercy School of Law held its 104th annual commencement ceremony on Friday, May 12 at Calihan Hall on the University’s McNichols Campus.

Chief Judge Denise Page Hood of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan delivered the commencement speech. Appointed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Judge Hood currently serves on the Criminal Rules Advisory Committee of the United States Judicial Conference. She also serves on the Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions Committee for the Sixth Circuit. She is the Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Jury Committee, and serves on various other committees of the U.S. District Court. Chief Judge Hood is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School.

Watch commencement speeches on YouTube

View commencement photos on Flickr

The Graduates

The 158 new graduates came to the School of Law from 51 undergraduate institutions in the United States and Canada. Half of them earned an American J.D., while 46% earned both American and Canadian J.D. degrees through Detroit Mercy Law’s three-year Canadian & American Dual J.D. program with the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. The remaining 4% earned J.D. and M.B.A. degrees from the School of Law and College of Business Administration. While the average age of the Class of 2017 is 27 years old, graduates ranged from 23 to 50 years of age.

“Golden” Guests of Honor

Four members of the Class of 1967 led the commencement procession as golden jubilee anniversary graduates: John J. Ciesliga, Joseph A. Golden, Jeffrey M. Leib, and Hon. Lois H. Smith. Judge Smith was one of just three women to graduate with the Class of 1967. By contrast, University President Antoine M. Garibaldi noted in his commencement remarks that 63% of the Class of 2017 is female.

The golden jubilee alumni reminisced about their adventures at the School of Law and reflected on their own graduation. “I drove a beer truck for three years to get through law school. When I finally walked across that stage, I could hardly believe it,” recalled Leib. The Class of 1967 will convene for a reunion dinner in July.

Words of Encouragement

University of Detroit Mercy Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Pamela Zarkowski, University President Antoine M. Garibaldi, and law school Dean Phyllis L. Crocker each offered their words of encouragement and advice to the Class of 2017 before ceding the floor to Chief Judge Denise Page Hood. Her keynote speech encouraged graduates to look back on their accomplishments and consider what the future may hold as they begin their careers.

“Look ahead to decide what kind of lawyer you want to become,” she advised. “You will find what you are good at and what makes you happiest, or what makes you feel relevant and worthy.” While every day may not be exciting, she said, “It will be meaningful.”

Chief Judge Page Hood also urged the graduates to seek counsel from more experienced attorneys. “Lawyers more mature in the law are nearly always open to assist you,” she said. “Don’t be proud. Reach out to someone so that you can effectively represent your client.”

Graduate of the Canadian & American Dual J.D. Program and Student Bar Association President Michael Valenti was selected by his classmates to speak on their behalf. He remarked on three special values he associates with the School of Law: kindness, integrity, and resilience.

“All three of these qualities translate to this school and contribute to its greatness. From the moment we set foot in the law building until today—the day we leave it—we have been treated with kindness, taught how to act with integrity, and become resilient in our studies and in our lives,” Valenti said.

Edward G. Lennon (’88), President of the Detroit Mercy Law Alumni Association, closed the ceremony by welcoming the Class of 2017 to the Alumni Association and reminding the graduates that they will now represent the School of Law in all they do.

“You will forever be a reflection of Detroit Mercy Law and the values and work ethic developed during your legal education….Display to the world at large that Detroit Mercy Law graduates possess the competence, intellectual honesty, compassion, and perseverance necessary to obtain positive results for society at large,” Lennon said.

“Oh well” is better than “what if.” Omar Aburashed often heard his grandfather give that advice, and it’s something he has taken to heart. “He was saying it’s better to try and fail than to wonder,” explained Aburashed, who, at 30, is following two seemingly different paths, but both are fueled by a drive to help the little guy.

University of Detroit Mercy will hold its annual commencement ceremonies on May 12 and 13, 2017. All three commencement ceremonies will take place in Calihan Hall on the McNichols Campus.

Each year, University of Detroit Mercy honors one alumnus from each school and college during the Alumni Achievement Spirit Awards. This year, the 2017 Spirit Awards were held Student Center Ballroom on the McNichols Campus, April 28.

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