Ninety-eight graduates of Elon University School of Law received Juris Doctor degrees on May 22. United States Senator Richard Burr delivered the commencement address, calling on graduates to embrace wide-ranging opportunities and responsibilities to lead and to serve at a time of rapid technological and political change around the world.
Addressing the Class of 2011, Burr emphasized the value of higher education in helping society to address complex issues of law, policy, technology, and foreign affairs.
“The big challenges of today must be met with bold and daring ideas, and the education you have received here at Elon has prepared you for coming up with those big ideas and for solving our nation’s and the world’s most pressing problems,” Burr said.
“Don’t complain about the pace of change, that it’s too quick or that the global genie is out of the bottle,” Burr continued. “See it as an unlimited opportunity for success. You are now the big thinkers and actors in our nation. With your diploma in hand you are an example to others of the importance of education and you will always carry it proudly with Elon School of Law with you. Your education is now a part of your legacy and your responsibility.”
Raymond Large, selected by his classmates to deliver the student address, spoke about the strong support members of the Class of 2011 offered to each other over three years of study.
“Here at our school we help each other, we make each other better, we inspire others to do the same and we helped start that legacy,” Large said. “Our class never left anyone behind that didn’t show the will to succeed. Whenever someone was down we all tried to bring them back up and that, in my humble opinion says more about these graduates than I could pontificate in a million speeches.”
Large also expressed appreciation to family members of graduates for their support and guidance.
“Before us are some people who still embrace values long thought forgotten, but because of your love, your patience and your guidance, those values are not gone but living in my colleagues,” Large said. “All of you who had a hand in raising these fine individuals have given to our university, our community, to our world, the gift of people who care about others and are enthusiastic about their chosen profession.”
Associate Professor of Law and Jennings Emerging Scholar Eric Fink presented the David Gergen Award for Leadership and Professionalism to Tiffany D. Atkins. The award is presented by the university annually to an outstanding law student and bares the name of David Gergen, chair of the Elon University Law School Advisory Board, former adviser to four United States presidents, Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and one of the country’s preeminent political commentators.
Fink said Atkins, “earned accolades from students, faculty, and staff alike for her dedication and community-mindedness, her integrity and strength of character, and her gracious and engaging personal manner.”
He noted that Atkins served in multiple leadership positions at the law school, including Student Bar Association representative and chair of the Academic Relations Committee, Moot Court board member, vice president of the Black Law Students Association, and Program Chair for the law school’s 2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. forum. She also served as a Martin Luther King, Jr. intern in the Greensboro office of Legal Aid of North Carolina and coordinated a food drive for residents of Sanford, NC, whose homes were destroyed by tornadoes.
“An active member of her church, she lives true to her faith, doing justice, loving mercy, and serving humbly as an advocate for the least among us,” Fink said.
Daniel Lyon, president of the Student Bar Association at Elon Law for the 2010-2011 academic year, delivered welcoming remarks. In addition to thanking family members and friends of graduates for their support, Lyon expressed appreciation to local business leaders in Greensboro and attorneys in the region for providing the Class of 2011 with guidance and mentoring during their three years at Elon.
The Reverend Phillip Smith delivered the invocation. Tara Jarvis Johnson, a member of the Class of 2011, led the singing of the national anthem. George R. Johnson, Jr., Dean and Professor of Law, introduced Senator Burr and joined Steven House, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Catherine Dunham, Associate Dean for Development and Professor of Law, in the presentation of candidates for Juris Doctor degrees. Elon University President Leo M. Lambert conferred the degrees and presented the charge to the graduating class.
The commencement ceremony was held at The Carolina Theatre in downtown Greensboro.