In Celebration of Minnesota Law’s 135th Commencement
The University of Minnesota Law School celebrated its 135th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 13 at Northrop Auditorium.
More than 1,500 students, loved ones, faculty, and staff joined the graduating Class of 2023 on Saturday morning to cheer on the 205 J.D. candidates, 25 LL.M. candidates, and seven Masters of Patent Law candidates, who crossed the stage and were awarded their degrees.
In his remarks, Dean Garry W. Jenkins commended the Class of 2023, saying, “This commencement is an especially meaningful one—because, let’s face it, for our J.D. graduates, you all started your law school experience under impossible circumstances–in the throes of the pandemic. [You] started your 1L year in Fall 2020 and many of you were entirely remote and Zooming into class from across the globe… and everyone was still reeling from the protests and racial reckoning taking place both in Minneapolis and across the U.S. that summer,” he said. “As such, you had to build your law school support system, your community here, with constraints like no other class before you, yet also with a deeper understanding of the urgency of addressing injustice. What I saw from all of you has been inspiring and humbling. Despite many challenges, we saw your ability to care for and lift each other up. We learned about your ability to weather whatever circumstances are thrown at you. We saw your intense drive to improve the world around you and make a difference now - both in your individual communities and in your Minnesota Law community. We saw resilience and drive.”
In celebration of extraordinary contributions by our faculty over the past year, Dean Jenkins announced the 2023 recipients of the prestigious Stanley V. Kinyon Teacher of the Year Awards. Receiving the awards this year were:
● Daniel Schwarcz (tenured faculty)
● JaneAnne Murray (clinical faculty)
● Kiri Somermeyer (skills/ professional faculty)
Eric Locker ’23 presented the Class of 2023 student awards. The Most Outstanding Contribution Award was presented to Mercedes Guadalupe Molina ’23 and the Excellence in Public Service Award was presented to Madelyn Cox-Guerra ’23.
Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Ra’Shya Ghee ’13 presented the William B. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service to Joshua Gutzmann ’23, and the Minnesota Law Equity & Diversity Award to Mercedes Guadalupe Molina ’23 and Samia Osman ’23.
Henry Killen ’23 presented the class gift—a generous contribution of $1,864 to the Law School’s George Floyd Memorial Scholarship in Law, with the goal of making the Law School more affordable to everyone, regardless of their financial situation.
Mica Standing Soldier ’23 delivered the J.D. class address. Her remarks focused on the community the Class of 2023 has built. She said, “The late bell hooks said that “all too often we think of community in terms of being with folks like ourselves: the same class, same race, same ethnicity, same social standing and the like.” [hooks] said, ‘we need to be wary: we need to work against the danger of evoking something that we don’t challenge ourselves to actually practice.’ Standing Soldier continued, saying, “I see this community as a direct manifestation of that challenge. We are all vastly different and yet we sit here together having achieved what many children dream about becoming when they’re older. There’s something to be said about the ways that we have held each other through the failures, the successes, the grief, the doubts, the Covid tests, and the cold calls of law school. That is a community of love, and we acknowledge that today.”
Nico Kast LL.M. ’23, delivered the LL.M. class address. He said, “I hope that we were able to give something back to the school and [this] amazing community. I am convinced that as an international student you have responsibilities. You represent your home country and promote intercultural understanding. Hopefully, we have played a small part in helping the University of Minnesota remain the cosmopolitan and inclusive educational institution that it is.”
The Honorable Keith Ellison ’90, Minnesota State Attorney General gave the keynote address.
In his remarks, AG Ellison asked the graduates, "So how do you be a good lawyer to people dealing with conflict and upset?” He said, “It begins and ends with communication. If there’s one thing as an attorney that you’ll get in trouble with your client for, it isn’t losing their case — it’s not being in touch with them.” Ellison reiterated that being a good lawyer starts with communicating well and listening. He said, “Communication starts with really listening to where your client is coming from — listening not only to what they are saying, but also to what they’re not saying.” The Attorney General further added, “Learning to be a good lawyer is like a journey with no destination. It’s like a mountain with no top. You’ll never learn it all. But if you’re comfortable working in conflict, are infinitely curious about what makes people tick, and can be selfless and tough and caring all at the same time, you’re well on your way. Welcome to your lifetime of learning to be a good lawyer.”
Following Attorney General Ellison’s address, University of Minnesota Regent Janie Mayeron ’76 officially conferred the degrees.
The J.D. class was presented by Professor Brian Bix and Assistant Dean of Experiential Education Mitchell Zamoff. Kara Galvin, director of International and Graduate Programs presented the LL.M. class, and Professor Christopher M. Turoski ’98 presented the Master of Patent Law class.
At the end of the ceremony, members of TORT sang “Hail! Minnesota.” The participating TORT singers were Dominic Detwiler, 2L; Grace Anderson, 3L; Cheyenna Gonzalez Pilsner, 1L; and Eric Sievert, 3L.
The ceremony ended with the Stone Arch Brass performing the recessional.
Minnesota Law faculty and staff join family and friends in congratulating the Class of 2023!