Elon Law welcomes the Class of 2016
The Hon. Henry E. Frye, a founding member of the Elon University Law School Advisory Board and former Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, delivered the Call to Honor address on Aug. 13, formally welcoming 109 students as the Class of 2016 at Elon Law.
The class represents 54 undergraduate institutions, 47 undergraduate and graduate majors and an array of professional backgrounds. Members of the class have studied and worked in Afghanistan, Austria, China, England, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Numerous students in the class, including six veterans of the United States military, have backgrounds in philanthropic, nonprofit and public service, including work experience with adult literacy programs, the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse, as well as experience in state and national government offices, community kitchens, legal aid organizations and veterans’ centers.
On August 13, the university welcomed the class at a convocation ceremony held at Whitley Auditorium on Elon University’s main campus, approximately 30 minutes from the law school’s location in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. Law school dean George R. Johnson, Jr., introduced Justice Frye to deliver the Call to Honor address.
“When you look at Henry Frye and his life, and his life story, they are truly remarkable. He is in a class by himself,” Johnson said. “The lists of firsts associated with his name are truly outstanding: the first African-American elected to the North Carolina legislature since the Civil War, the first African-American Assistant U.S. Attorney in North Carolina, the first African-American named to the state Supreme Court, the first Chief Justice of that court. When you talk to anyone who knows anything about North Carolina they will tell you that few people have done more to transform North Carolina to a fairer, more just state than have Henry Frye and his indispensible and constant partner Shirley. From fighting to eliminate the state’s literacy requirement for voting to insuring that education is adequatley funded for all state citizens, Henry Frye has been at the forefront of movements to improve North Carolina and the lives of her residents.”
Frye encouraged the entering class to abide by the student-created honor code of the law school and to bring honor to the legal profession, the university and the law school.
“Law school is not just about studying the law and learning the law, it is about leadership development and how to work together to solve problems and challenges, how to avoid boredom and depression, how to stay out of trouble so that you can help others who are in trouble, how to keep focused and have a balanced life,” Frye said. “When you have a choice take the high road. It is the right road, it is the best road, it is your call to honor.”
Prior to the convocation ceremony, entering law students discussed with members of the faculty and administration of the law school a common reading, the recently published, Henry Frye: North Carolina’s First African American Chief Justice by Howard E. Covington, Jr. Several students noted after the convocation ceremony that they were inspired by Frye.
“He is an amazing man,” said Diamond Zephir L’16, a graduate of Guilford College. “He grew up from humble beginnings. He inspired other people around him. It’s very inspiring knowing that if he could do it, I could do it.”
Joshua Carter L’16 was the first of several students at convocation to express his appreciation to Frye for his leadership and service.
“I definitely wanted to shake a man’s hand who made such an impact on the state of North Carolina,” Carter said. “Being the first African-American legislator since the Civil War, also being the first African-American Chief Justice for North Carolina, I felt like it would be very beneficial to shake his hand and to thank him for everything he did.”
JaMonika Williams L’16 said she was able to relate to elements of Frye’s life challenges.
“He paved the way for African American students to do what we’re doing now,” Williams said. “I think his humble beginnings resonated with me the most. It’s something about coming from the bottom and succeeding, it’s a great story and it makes you a better person.”
William Stewart L’16 said he was inspired by the fact that both he and Justice Frye graduated from North Carolina A&T State University.
“Out of respect for the things that he did coming from that school, I’m trying to follow in his footsteps as far as law school is concerned,” Stewart said. “I’m still astonished by the things that he did. As an African-American man trying to make it in this profession, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to meet him.”
Stewart said he had a variety of interests in the law.
“I’ve always been interested in law, particularly the corporate side of law, but recently I have been engaged in nonprofit work and policy change efforts,” Stewart said. “Also, where I am from, we were taught to either fear or rebel against the law, and I would love to help change that outlook. I would love to teach people what the law is, other than to tell them you don’t need to understand it, just don’t deal with it. That’s why I got into law.”
Ivann Parker L’16 said his interest in becoming a lawyer grew out of being the son of a law enforcement officer.
“I became thirsty for the other side of that process,” Parker said. “It is a marvelous mechanism that we have in place today as a check and balance for the things that go on in society that are outside of the norm. To get a sound foundation in the art and practice of law is my goal.”
Scheherazade Pittman L’16 said she was interested in intellectual property and patent law because of her background as a scientist and that she appreciated the career opportunities presented by Elon Law’s location in Greensboro.
“I like the centrality of downtown,” Pittman said. “I like the idea of being localized around a lot of practices.”
Orientation for first-year students at Elon Law took place throughout the week of August 12. Among a variety of activities, the orientation schedule included small group discussions with faculty members, social gatherings and events outside the law school, a day of volunteer service in the community, meetings with leaders of the American Bar Association and the North Carolina Bar Association and introductions by faculty to some of the key dimensions of law, legal education and coursework at Elon.
The convocation ceremony was followed by a reception hosted by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert.
“We are very proud of our young law school and I hope that all of you will think of yourselves as shapers and builders of the law school,” Lambert said, taking time to honor Frye and calling him, “one of North Carolina’s true great citizens of all time.”
Student Bar Association President Katherine Koone L’14 offered welcoming remarks at the convocation ceremony.
“I advise all of you during the next three years to think outside the box and take advantage of your academic talents,” Koone said. “I hope, like me, you will wake up each day excited and anxious to learn something about the law. You are entering a field that holds a large amount of responsibility and respect but results in extraordinary satisfaction. Whether you long to be an advocate for the 80 percent of underrepresented lower middle class and poor individuals whose legal needs are not met, a litigator, a political official, an educator, a constitutional law scholar, sports agent or are unsure of what path you will take, Elon provides not only the academic but the leadership tools necessary for the practice of law.”