Widener Law graduates receive degrees
Public Relations - Published: May 19, 2009

The 368 graduates who received degrees in two law commencement ceremonies this weekend were advised to “follow your gut and follow your heart.”

U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, a 1999 Widener Harrisburg alumnus, was the honored speaker at both the Delaware and Harrisburg ceremonies. Murphy, 35 and an Iraq War veteran, harkened back to his days as a student in the Harrisburg Civil Clinic, and memories including how Professor Michael Cozzillio, warned his students to “bring their A game” because he would have taught no differently at Harvard Law.

“You should leave here knowing you’ve been taught by the best,” Murphy said.

Murphy acknowledged the challenging times currently facing the country, and he explained he was no stranger to challenges – having launched a congressional campaign with just $322, no name recognition and people he loved telling him to wait. He won one of the country’s closest races by 1,518 votes, having been outspent by $3 million.

“Remember that drive and determination, when you leave here today, will get you where you want to go. You have what it takes to succeed,” he said.

The Delaware campus commencement, held Saturday, May 16 on the school green, also featured remarks by regular-division valedictorian Courtney Liliane Schultz and extended-division valedictorian Bonnie Egan Copeland. Student Bar Association President Matthew A. DeNucci IV gave the outstanding faculty award to Associate Professor Jules Epstein. Law Dean Linda L. Ammons gave the Douglas E. Ray excellence in faculty scholarship award to Professors Laura Ray and Ann E. Conaway.

The Harrisburg campus commencement, held Sunday, May 17 at the Forum in Harrisburg’s Capitol Complex, also featured remarks by valedictorian Adam L. Santucci. Student Bar Association President Kenneth C. Robinson announced a class gift of five trees and a general scholarship fund donation. He also gave the outstanding faculty award to Associate Professor Michael J. Hussey. Ammons gave the Douglas E. Ray excellence in faculty scholarship award to Associate Professor Christopher J. Robinette.

Widener University President James T. Harris III told graduates at both ceremonies that each day brings an opportunity to demonstrate acts of tolerance, justice and equality. “Give people the respect they deserve and recognize that mutual respect is the basis for a civil society,” he said.

Ammons told the graduates their class was personally significant for her because most of them began their law school careers as she became Widener’s dean. She commended the classes’ spirit for public service, with 65 Delaware-campus graduates donating 7,409 pro bono hours of service since their first year of law school, and 13 Harrisburg-campus graduates donating 1,775 pro bono hours of service.
“Lawyers have the awesome capacity to change lives and affect history. The tools we use are words,” she said. “Words can heal or hurt, build or destroy, motivate or oppress. Use a word to make this world a better place.”