Tom Ross challenges Elon Law graduates to serve and to lead
Delivering the commencement address for Elon Law’s 105-member Class of 2014, University of North Carolina president Thomas W. Ross, Sr., urged the class “to serve and to lead for the common good.”
Law school dean George R. Johnson, Jr., introduced Ross.
“Few people embody the qualities we seek to promote in every student and graduate of Elon University School of Law as does our speaker this afternoon,” Johnson said. “When we speak of lawyer-leaders, the name Tom Ross inevitably and immediately comes to mind. Integrity, ethical service to the profession and the community, unwavering commitment to justice, these all describe Tom Ross. He is a sterling example of what it is to be a lawyer-leader.”
Ross told Elon Law graduates they were well positioned to make a difference and do good in the world.
“You are better prepared for the diverse, changing, global workplace of tomorrow than most of the rest of the people of the world,” Ross said. “You can be an effective and positive lawyer at the same time you are an effective and positive leader for the good of others and for society. Now you simply must decide what your responsibility is. You must decide whether you will do more than just live your life. You must decide whether you will lead.”
Ross said that lawyers have many opportunities to lead, not only because of the knowledge and skill they possess, but also because of the hope and trust members of communities place in lawyers.
“As you leave this remarkable place to begin the next phase of your life, I urge you to seize on the opportunity to make a difference, to serve and to lead for the common good,” Ross said. “Don't just live, lead. The world needs leaders and you are ready and prepared to step up and do it, so seize the opportunity.”
Elon Law Professor Patricia Perkins presented Elon’s highest honor for a graduating law student, the David Gergen Award for Leadership and Professionalism, to Class of 2014 member Brian Park. Perkins’ remarks detailing the contributions that Park made to the law school, the profession and the community are available here.
Elon University trustee Gail McMichael Lane received the honorary degree Doctor of Laws in recognition of her extraordinary commitment to education and her outstanding service to Elon University. The degree was conferred by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert and presented by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven D. House. A report on Elon’s degree presentation honoring Gail McMichael Lane is available here.
Thomas Prendergast was selected by his peers to deliver the student address. He said it was a calling of lawyers to shine light into darkness.
“Society relies on us to protect the innocent, to bring the guilty to justice and to make sure that the mute among us are given a voice,” Prendergast said. “Throughout our experiences together here at Elon we have been told what it means to lead and that we should be lawyer-leaders. I know that as a class, we will choose to shine light into darkness and lead others to do so as well. I could not be more proud to count myself as a member of our class. And I can’t wait to see the impression that we make on our world.”
Katherine Koone, the 2013-2014 president of the Student Bar Association at Elon Law, offered remarks of appreciation.
“Thank you for being our strength when we needed it most and for bringing joy into our lives,” Koone said to family members and friends of graduates. “Your patience was our rock and your pride was our motivation. It is with your support that I know each of us can leave here and accomplish our goals.”
To the faculty, staff and administration of Elon Law, Koone said, “Thank you for your support both in and out of the classroom and reminding us daily that we would make it not only to graduation but fulfill our dreams of holding outstanding careers in the law. I hope we make you proud and you understand the impact you’ve had on each of our lives.”
Finally, Koone thanked her classmates.
“You are more than study partners, we are best friends, a second family, tutors, confidants, support systems and the occasional screaming match partners,” Koone said. “The intelligence and diversity expressed within our class is unmatched. I have learned so much from each and every one of you that has changed not only my perspective on life, but my perspective on myself. We have all been an integral part of each other’s success. I am honored to share this day with you.”
Provost House presented the candidates for degrees. President Lambert conferred the degrees and presented the charge to the graduating class. Dean Johnson and Andrew J. Haile, 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.