Graduating law students gathered with the rest of the university for Commencement on April 26 and listened to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland urge them to leave BYU and go out to provide a light in the world. “You have entered to learn,” he said. “Now go forth to serve and strengthen.”
On April 27, graduates gathered at the law school for a reception hosted by the BYU Law Alumni Association. They mingled with family, classmates, and professors, and swapped stories and updated each other on where they are headed next. Destinations ranged from New York to San Francisco and even unknown destinations for those joining the Air Force JAG. Class of 2018 graduates will find classmates across the country at large firms, including Sullivan & Cromwell and Sidley Austin; public defenders’ offices; corporations, including Goldman Sachs and KPMG; nonprofit organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center; and government offices in the Department of Justice. (To see spotlight stories about a few of our graduates, visit BYU’s JDtoBe blog.)
Graduate Stacey Tellus remarked, “It’s amazing to think that in so many ways, I’ve become a pioneer. Not only am I the only member of the LDS Church in my family, I am also the first black person to graduate with a joint JD MPA degree from BYU. I hope I can inspire those who come after me to pursue these degrees and use them to serve others.”
Following the reception, Convocation was held in the de Jong concert hall. Dean Gordon Smith conducted the program, and the assembly was addressed by graduating students Grey Lund, Loren Flores, and SBA President Lisha Lisonbee. “I would invite you to slow down and see people,” Lund encouraged after sharing the story of a classmate who reached out to offer him compassion. “She recognized me as a person with hopes and desires as real as her own.” Lund advised, “Put God first in your life, do what you say you’re going to do, and be anxiously engaged in a good cause.”
Flores invited her classmates to use their law degrees to serve others. “We have studied the laws of men in light of the laws of God, learning to emulate the greatest advocate, our Savior.” She quoted one of her heroes, Cesar Chavez, “The end of all education should surely be service to others,” and Flores advised her classmates to follow that axiom, “We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We have learned the healer’s art.”
Lisonbee’s remarks were based on the line “hither by Thy help I’ve come” from the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. She recounted the many moments of encouragement and counseling that came through family, classmates, professors and law school employees, reflection and prayer. “Between classes, competitions, extracurriculars, and co-curriculars, [my classmates] have shown me their extraordinary advocacy capabilities.. . . . We will be hard pressed to find more loyalty than in the friendships that have been forged in the walls of this law school.”
In keeping with the tradition of the Class of 2018, graduating students Ashley Smith and Spencer Funk were joined by Professors John Fee and Paul Stancil for one final musical number as they performed the Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision.”
Daniel B. Rodriguez, Dean of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, then offered the graduation address. He focused on innovation and social responsibility. As he closed, Dean Rodriguez emphasized his theme, “We must consider innovations in law, as elsewhere in life, in the shadow of social responsibility and our commitment as lawyers . . . to ensuring that we are using these innovations not simply in the service of efficiency and social welfare, however best measured, but also in the interest of social justice.”
Professor Brigham Daniels introduced the graduates as they were hooded by Professors Stephanie Bair and Eric Jensen and received their diplomas from Dean Smith.
Gayla Sorenson, Dean of External Relations, then welcomed the graduates into the Alumni Association and reminded them of the advice she gave them at new student orientation three years ago. As law students, they, like the children of Israel we read about in Deuteronomy, were blessed to drink from wells they had not dug. She requested of graduates, “I’m asking you to more fully shoulder the responsibility of building, planting, and digging . . . ; that you will enable others to have what you have; that you will do all that you do in the light of the laws of God, especially the law to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Final remarks were offered by Dean Smith. He shared the story of a letter he received from his daughter. In it, she reminded him that he had always counseled her to change the world for the better. As she served her mission, she realized that she was teaching the things he had taught her. “We love you like we love our children,” Dean Smith said. “We know you will change the world.”
As the Law School says goodbye to the Class of 2018 as students and welcomes them into the Alumni Association, we echo Elder Holland’s question to them during Commencement, “If we cannot look to you to change the world, where else shall we look?” We look to our graduates to change the world, wherever they go and in whatever capacity they choose to work, serve, and strengthen.
View the BYU Law 2018 Graduation Google Photo album here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/8caQ9MBssVRWbMR53