Judge Catherine Eagles urges Elon Law graduates to take risks and improve justice
The Honorable Catherine C. Eagles, United States District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina, delivered the Elon University School of Law commencement address on May 25 before 123 members of the Class of 2013.
Law school dean George R. Johnson, Jr. introduced Eagles, calling her, “a remarkably accomplished jurist and leader, and a very special friend of our law school.” More information about Judge Eagles is available here.
In her remarks, Eagles challenged graduates to develop a willingness to take risks in pursuit of justice.
“Will we be able to use technology to provide more efficient and affordable legal services to people who need them? Can we figure out how to use new communication methods to give us a better balance between work time and home life? Is there a better way to practice law than in the traditional law firm environment? How can we make the rule of law more consistent and predictable so that people know they can rely on the justice system to truly deliver justice?” Eagles asked.
“If we allow our own fear and risk-averse tendencies to take control, we will not be able to take advantage of these and other opportunities," Eagles continued. "But if we use our worries and fears about the future as a way to prepare and think ahead and plan, then, when the time is right or when circumstances require, we will be ready to take the necessary risks. The world needs you, with your talents, and your skills, and your willingness to take risks. Do not be afraid. You are ready.”
Elon Law Professor Michael Rich presented the David Gergen Award for Leadership and Professionalism to Class of 2013 member Melodie Menzer. Rich’s remarks detailing the contributions that Menzer made to the law school, the profession and the community are available here.
Jacob Pryor was selected by his peers to deliver the student address. Highlighting a variety of individual contributions to the justice system made by members if his class and noting that the class collectively had contributed more than 7,000 hours of pro bono work while at Elon, Pryor said that the class was helping to improve the public perception of lawyers.
“These men and women in this class have inspired me,” Pryor said. “They are truly amazing. They have personally changed my life. They have convinced me of perspectives that I once ignored. They changed my convictions. These men and women have already done some great things.”
Gwendolyn Lewis, the 2012-2013 president of the Student Bar Association at Elon Law, offered remarks of appreciation to family members and friends of the graduating class, as well as other supporters of law students during their time at Elon.
“I would like to say thank you to every parent, spouse, family member and friend who encouraged and supported each of us as we worked towards this day,” Lewis said. “We welcome and express a sincere thank you to the members of the legal community who have provided so many of us with invaluable experiences, advice and mentorship during our time at Elon Law. We thank you for investing in each of our lives and helping us prepare for the practice of law.”
Steven D. House, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, presented the candidates for degrees.
Elon University President Leo M. Lambert conferred the degrees and presented the charge to the graduating class.
Johnson and Catherine Ross Dunham, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, led the hooding ceremony and awarding of diplomas.
The Reverend Janet F. Fuller, University Chaplain, offered the Invocation to begin Commencement Exercises.