Widener Law graduates receive degrees
Public Relations - Published: May 21, 2012

The 435 graduates who received degrees in two commencement ceremonies over May 19 and 20 were advised to use their degrees to make a difference in the world.

U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) told Delaware-campus graduates there is no limit to what they can do with the skills they’ve gained at Widener. Each day he recites the Pledge of Allegiance in the U.S. Senate, Coons said, he listens intently as the final line is uttered.

“Never forget that we pledge, as a nation, liberty and justice for all,” he said. “You have an opportunity. You have the skills to add to justice around the world.”

Harrisburg campus alumnus William N. Nettles ’92, U.S. attorney for the district of South Carolina, was the featured speaker at the commencement program for Harrisburg-campus graduates. He told the graduates one of the best things about being a lawyer is getting to help people every day.

“If your clients know you care about them you will be a successful lawyer,” Nettles said. “And if you get a reputation that you do it with civility and dignity, then you will also earn the respect of the bar.”

The Delaware campus commencement, held Saturday, May 19 on the school green, also featured remarks by valedictorian Melanie Crawford. Law Dean Linda L. Ammons gave the outstanding faculty award – decided by a vote of the graduating class – to Professor John F. Nivala. The dean gave the Douglas E. Ray excellence in faculty scholarship award to Professor Larry Barnett and Associate Professor Stephen Friedman.

The school also gave a posthumous law degree to Alisha Moses, who was a member of the class of 2012 until she passed away in the fall. Moses’ mother, Laura, accepted it on her behalf. Moses was a strong student and worked in the Pennsylvania Criminal Law Clinic.

The Harrisburg campus commencement, held Sunday, May 20 at the Forum in Harrisburg’s Capitol Complex, featured remarks by valedictorian Marisa Zizzi. Ammons gave the outstanding faculty award to Professor James Diehm. The dean gave the Douglas E. Ray excellence in faculty scholarship award to Associate Professor Jill E. Family.

Widener University President James T. Harris III told graduates their communities, their nation and democracy in general need them to speak out, particularly on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

“Graduates of the class of 2012, speak out and make the world a better place,” Harris said. “Speak out and you’ll raise the stature of this institution with your words and your actions.”

Ammons told the graduates a privilege of being part of the legal community is the ability to give back, and their tools are words. She commended the classes’ spirit for public service, with 96 Delaware-campus graduates donating 14,650 pro bono hours of service since their first year of law school, and 24 Harrisburg-campus graduates donating 3,686 pro bono hours of service.

“As you leave this law school and take your place in a world that is ever more complex, unsure, complicated and flat; as you zealously represent your clients, administer justice, build businesses and nations; use the tools, the training you received here at Widener University School of Law not just to accumulate wealth and things, but use the word to make this world a better place,” she said.

Finally, 2012 marked the final year that Assistant Dean and Registrar Dottie Hemphill oversaw commencement on the Delaware campus. Both she and Paula D. Garrison, executive assistant to the dean, were recognized during that ceremony. The School of Law wishes both women well in their upcoming retirements.