Elon Law graduates first class to complete 2.5-year program

Members of the Class of December 2017 received degrees in a ceremony featuring the chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, who encouraged the future attorneys to "help our society renew its commitment to the American compact that we all share."

Throughout his distinguished career as a North Carolina jurist, the Hon. Mark D. Martin has observed how the study and practice of law promotes many ideals necessary for a free society to flourish:

  • the ability to thoroughly understand arguments supporting each conflicting point of view;
  • to be civil and peaceful when discussing "good-faith disagreements";
  • and to demand fair process for all individuals, especially those who are unpopular. 

"I urge each of you to cultivate these ideals in how you conduct yourselves, both as lawyers and as citizens, and to help others aspire to them as well," the chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina instructed the newest alumni of Elon Law. "Being a good public citizen can go hand in hand with being part of a dynamic, intellectually fulfilling profession. And it’s truly an exciting time to be a lawyer."  

Elon University School of Law marked a milestone in its young history over the weekend when it graduated the Class of December 2017, the first 111 students to complete a new curriculum that emphasizes practical training in a seven-trimester, 2.5-year program.

The Commencement program on Dec. 16, 2017, was the first time that a North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice addressed an Elon Law graduating class, which was notable in another regard: Nearly a quarter of graduates were African-American and, when combined with others in the class who identify as racial minorities, represent the most diverse class in the history of the school.

It was in that context that Martin praised Elon Law for its innovative approach to legal education while encouraging the class to "embrace the same attitude" when practiving law. After all, he said, the practice of law has changed considerably in recent years as new technologies shape approaches to representation.

Still, he said, many challenges exist.

"About 80 percent of the civil legal needs of the poor are going unmet," Martin said. "Some estimate that every lawyer in the country would have to work for 200 hours to give just one hour of attention to each legal problem that an American faces. No lawyer can solve this problem alone, but we all have a part to play. 

"By representing those in need, lawyers can help ensure that—to paraphrase President Theodore Roosevelt—no one is above the law and no one is below it."

Martin, the state’s 28th chief justice and the only active jurist on the North Carolina Supreme Court whose legal career includes service on the state’s Court of Appeals and Superior Court, has authored hundreds of appellate decisions and participated in thousands of fully briefed and argued cases during his two decades on the appellate courts.

Highly respected by the legal profession, Martin has served in a number of leadership roles within the North Carolina Bar Association, including as its vice president, and as a member of its Litigation Section Council, Judicial Independence Committee and Strategic Planning and Emerging Trends Committee.

Most recently, he convened the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, which conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the state’s judicial system before making recommendations for strengthening the courts within the existing administrative framework. Martin currently serves on the Conference of Chief Justices’ Board of Directors and as chair of the Professionalism and Confidence of the Bar Committee.

Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman introduced Martin to graduates and their families, describing the chief justice as a leader "tireless in his devotion to the rule of law and commitment to the role of the judiciary as the bulwark of the republic and our state."

In his closing, Martin asked graduates to remember why they chose to become a lawyer. 

"Never stop learning, and never stop pushing yourself to adapt to our changing legal environment," he said. "I hope that you will leave this graduation ceremony with a deep sense of accomplishment. Deservedly so. But I also ask that you leave here with a sense of purpose, and with a sense of hope. … There will always be clients who need zealous and skilled advocates, if lawyers use the right tools to find them."  

The Commencement program featured welcoming remarks by Veronica Rachel Townsend, president of the Student Bar Association, and Jordan Donavin Thompson, an Elon University undergraduate alumnus elected by his peers to deliver the Elon Law student address.

"It has been a true privilege to have been on this life-changing journey with all of you, as it seems the most special and unexpected part of pursuing a legal education has entailed gaining true lifelong friends along the way," Townsend said. "While receiving this piece of paper today certainly is nice, walking away with the knowledge that a group of such remarkable people is entering the world, with the power of a law degree on their side, gives me great hope for the positive changes that are certain to follow. "

Thompson likewise complimented his classmates for their achievements in law school. He also took a moment to recognize Delores Jackson, the mother of Juma Jackson, a student in the Class of December 2017 who died of an illness more than a year and a half earlier. Delores Jackson received a standing ovation from graduates and the audience.

Thompson then alluded to current events and the responsibilities his class will have as lawyers.

"We could not hide from the injustices around the country today, and we were forced to take a long hard look at our chosen career paths and how we would affect change in a world that so desperately needs it," Thompson said. "Despite the adversity we had to endure, the Class of 2017 has remained hopeful and these events did not break us but only strengthened our resolve and furthered our purpose. Drawing us closer to our calling to serve." 

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert, who concludes his presidential tenure in March, used his final charge at an Elon Law Commencement to task graduates with using their knowledge for justice, their intelligence in the pursuit of goodness, and their keen minds for seeking truth. He also asked graduates to remain connected with their law school alma mater.

"I look forward to a close relationship with you in the years ahead as you, among its earliest alumni, continue to guide this young law school," Lambert said. "Elon Law will become a better institution by the active participation of alumni in determining her destiny." 

Elon University School of Law's Class of December 2017

Nathan E. Akers
B.A., The College of Charleston

Scelina Wilson Aleem
B.A., Georgia State University
M.A., Clark Atlanta University

Christopher R. Anderson
B.B.A., Strayer University

Emily Barr Andrews
B.A., North Carolina State University

Bronte M. Anelli
B.A., The Pennsylvania State University

Whitney Akers Armstrong
B.A., University of Virginia M.P.P., George Mason University

Anika Ifetayo Bailey
B.A., Georgia College & State University

Maxwell Robert Baker
B.A., Goldey-Beacom College

Whitney D. Baker
B.A., Georgia Southern University
MPA, Georgia Southern University

Trisha Lynn Barfield
B.S., Methodist University

Charles Bennett
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Shavonn Noland Bennette
B.S., University of West Georgia

Bradly Robert Beyer
B.A., University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
M.A., Norwich University

Britney Michelle Boles
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Paula Marie Booth
B.S., Salem College

Andrew Carl Brooks
B.A., University of Massachusetts Amherst

Jazzmine Monae’ Burch
B.A., Fayetteville State University

Pahola Katherine Burgos
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Sawyer Ellyn Butto
B.A., Notre Dame of Maryland University

Anthony L. Campbell
B.A., Western Michigan University

Kayla Nicole Campbell
B.A., Salem College
M.A., Wake Forest University

Michael Donnell Casterlow
B.A., Hampden-Sydney College

Mia Faith Chamberlain
B.A., North Carolina State University

Jessica Eunkyo Chong
B.S., North Carolina State University

Kalie Lauren Chumley
B.S., Young Harris College

Nicole Elizabeth Collier
B.A., Clemson University

Quinn Amerling Cotter
B.A., Dickinson College

Andrew Caleb Covington
B.A., Campbell University

Marli Jon Dabareiner
B.A., Randolph Macon College

Jacqueline Nicole Douglas
B.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Krystal Yvonne Drew
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Caleb Scott Dunn
B.S., West Virginia University

Chelby Carey Dyer
B.A., West Virginia University

Shanelle Katherine Edmonds
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Tiffany M. Fitzgerald
B.A., Alabama State University

William Alexander Gordon
B.S., University of Mount Olive

John Hall Francis Greenbacker
B.S., Appalachian State University

Cody Spence Griffin
B.S., Appalachian State University

Alexandra Cranston Haile
B.A., High Point University
M.Ed., High Point University

Christopher Bernardo Hall
B.A., Hampden-Sydney College

William Grayson Handy
B.A., Wingate University

Brittany Amanda Hart
B.A., Concordia University

Paul Griffin Hester
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Lauren Danielle Hossfeld
B.A., University of Georgia

Carl G. Ivarsson III
B.S., North Carolina State University

Drew Nicholas Kelly
A.B, Elon University

Shahzad Khan
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Ryne Joshua Kochan
B.A., Coastal Carolina University

Rachel Elise Lamey
B.S., University of Alabama

Andrew R. Leslie
B.A., Lenoir-Rhyne University

Fabienne Dominique Michaud Limage
B.S., Guilford College

Ryan V. Logan
B.S., Virginia Commonwealth University

Liliane Rebecca Long
B.S., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Jenna Lynn Markwitz
B.A., Saint John Fisher College

Peter N. McClelland
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kathryn A. McCullough
B.S., Bentley College

Shane Parnell McGrath
B.A., Gardner-Webb University

Samantha Page McHone
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Kimberlee Farr Mercer
B.A., University of the Cumberlands

Morgan E. Metzger
B.A., Rollins College

S. Dean Michaux Jr.
B.A., Greensboro College

Aarin Kristin-Wyatt Miles
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Rabbi Y.J. Miller
B.S., Stanford University
M.A., Hebrew Union College

Gabriel E. Mirabelli
B.A., Guilford College

Caitlin Anne Mitchell
B.A., Roanoke College

Andreas James Mosby
B.A., Greensboro College

Justin Alan Moulin
B.S., Charleston Southern University

Samantha Marie Mungro
B.S., Western Carolina University

Jaylyn Dallas Noble
B.A., Syracuse University

Creshenole Nicole Opata
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Joleen Crystal Parks
B.A., Boise State University

Suzanne Marie Patinella
B.A., Washington College

Nicholas Joseph Patrick
B.S., York College of Pennsylvania

Stephanie Ann Pazulski
B.S., High Point University

Ashley Peacock
B.A., Marshall University

Marsha Renee Poston
B.S., Campbell University
M.A., Liberty University

Lydia Thea Powers
B.A., University of Massachusetts Amherst

Victoria Elizabeth Prince
B.A., High Point University

Racquel Monique Richards
B.A., Mercer University

Joshua Ritter
B.A., Centenary College of Louisiana

Jalisa Nichelle Roberts
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Gheisha-Ly Rosario Diaz
B.A., Florida International University
M.E.L.P., Vermont Law School

Gregory Warren Rouse II
B.S., University of South Carolina Upstate

Amanda May Scharber
B.A., St. Cloud State University

Sara Larcher Shaver
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Don Maxwell Sims
B.A., University of South Carolina

Abhishek Prakash Singh
B.S., University of Tennessee KnoxvilleM.A., Lipscomb University

Wendy Jean Smith
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
MSN/MBA The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Amanda Ruth Spears
B.A., Campbell University
M.P.A. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Rachel K. Stariha
B.A., James Madison University

Stratton L. Stone
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Zachary E. Sylvester
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Eboni Nichelle Thompson
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Jordan Donavin Thompson
A.B., Elon University

Zachary S. Tiblin
B.A., Virginia Wesleyan University

Veronica Rachel Townsend
B.S., University of Delaware

Gerard Lynn Truesdale
B.S., Morehouse College
M.L.S./M.I.S. North Carolina Central University

Madeline Anita Turpen
B.A., University of West Georgia

Adam B. Watkins
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Melissa Lee Watkins
B.A., Wake Forest University

Janelle Eileen Wendorf
B.A., Heidelberg University
M.E.L.P., Vermont Law School

Amy Elizabeth Wert
B.A., Iona College

Ashley Williams
B.S., Fayetteville State University

Malia Moore Williams
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Phyniques Tarnisha Williams
B.S., University of Maryland

Danielle Jones Wilson
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Christopher William Winiecki
B.S., Texas Tech University
M.S.E.M, University of South Carolina

Marshall Luis Wright
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Michael Alan Yoder
B.A., Susquehanna University

Rachel Katharine Zielinski
B.A., College of Charleston