N.C.’s top jurist to Elon Law grads: ‘Transform our legal system’

Elon University School of Law conferred 107 degrees in a Commencement ceremony on Saturday that featured an address by Chief Justice Cheri L. Beasley of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, who tasked the Class of 2019 with using the knowledge bestowed by a legal education to expand access to the justice system.


As chair of the state’s Equal Access to Justice Commission, Chief Justice Cheri L. Beasley of the Supreme Court of North Carolina is familiar with a significant gap affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

More than 70 percent of low-income households will experience a civil legal problem over the next year, she said during her Commencement address to Elon Law’s Class of 2019. Only 15 percent will be able to be represented by a lawyer.

Chief Justice Cheri L. Beasley of the Supreme Court of North Carolina

“It is incumbent on each and every one of us to improve the legal system and make it more accessible to everyone,” Beasley said. “It is you who has the power and, really, the obligation to transform our legal system into one that truly serves every person as our society continues to change.”

One hundred and seven graduates received their degrees in an Alumni Gym program on December 14 that celebrated Elon Law’s 12th graduating class. The Class of 2019 was the third class to complete a 2.5-year, seven trimester highly experiential curriculum adopted by Elon Law five years ago.

In her remarks, Beasley encouraged graduates – especially those who have yet to determine what they want to accomplish with a law degree – not to worry if their future plans aren’t finalized.

Instead, she said, graduates should embrace opportunities as they arise and to let those opportunities “transform you in ways you never could have imagined.”

“I know that there are many of you who have absolutely no idea what you are going to do after you take the bar exam and I’m here to tell you that is absolutely okay,” she said. “I’m here to tell you that when I finished law school, I was one of those who had absolutely no idea that my path would take me here today, that I would one day serve as the 29th chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.”

Beasley holds a Master of Laws in Judicial Studies from Duke University, a J.D. from The University of Tennessee College of Law, and a bachelor’s degree from Douglass College of Rutgers University. She has served in a number of leadership roles in the North Carolina Bar Association, as a member of the N.C. Bar Foundation Endowment Committee, and as a member of the American Bar Association Standing Committee for Legal Aid and Indigent Defense.

Beasley is the recipient of multiple awards and honors including the Fayetteville State University Chancellor’s Medallion, the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys’ Gwyneth B. Davis Award, and The University of Tennessee Knoxville Trailblazer Award, as well as inductions into The Douglass Society, the highest honor bestowed by Douglass College of Rutgers University, and the Rutgers University African-American Alumni Alliance Hall of Fame.

In introducing Beasley, Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman praised her achievements as he reminded graduates of the special responsibility they now possess.

Ahmed Mohamed L’19

“By earning your Juris Doctor, you are in rare company, shared by very few of your friends and neighbors,” Bierman said. “There are but a million practicing lawyers in our country of 330 million people. That matters for many reasons. When you pass the bar exam and join this noble profession, you will be a guardian of the rule of law, of a system of governance where facts matter. Where fairness matters. Where civility matters. Where disagreements are settled by passionate advocates who recognize that today’s courtroom adversaries may well be tomorrow’s allies.

“Those are important attributes in today’s polarized and ‘fiction friendly’ environment.”

Commencement also featured welcome remarks by Thomas “T.J.” Renda, who recently concluded his tenure as president of the Student Bar Association, and Ahmed Mohamed, chosen by his peers to deliver the student address.

“These last couple of years certainly have been challenging, but they’ve also been some of the most fulfilling and rewarding days of our lives,” Renda said. “It is truly an honor to be a part of a group that is about the change the world.”

Mohamed likened the collective achievements of his classmates to the mythology of the Phoenix, Elon University’s mascot, and it’s symbolism of always rising. He praised his peers for their zealous advocacy and study as law students while lauding them for individual backgrounds that brought everyone to a shared moment in their professional journeys.

“The Class of 2019 is capable of all things,” Mohamed said. “As our story continues, we will be honorable judges, tenacious advocates, diligent litigators, and so much more. We will become leaders in our families and in our communities and we will take this institution as high as we soar ourselves, because we do it together.

“So when things get difficult, look to the person next to you and know we rise… together.”


In closing the ceremony, Elon University President Connie Book tasked graduates with living lives that adhere to the Elon University Honor Code of honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect.

“I charge each of you as new Elon graduates to use your knowledge and freedom as the university seal behind me depicts – numen and lumen, knowledge and light,” she said. “You are now among the most educated people in the world. Be resilient and steadfast like the mighty oaks for which Elon is named.”

Elon University School of Law’s Class of 2019

Brandon Lewis Ballard
B.S., Old Dominion University

Anna Kathryn Barnes
B.A., Washington and Lee University

Abigail Jane Blatt
B.A., Principia College

William Donald Bomar
B.A., Mars Hill University

Marissa Kathryn Branson
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Elizabeth Brewer Barnette
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kelsey Anne Brey
B.A., University of Mary Washington

Ryan Anthony Bristow
B.A., Presbyterian College

Haylea Nicole Carter
B.S., Clemson University

Jon Therron Causey
B.S., Catawba College

Mackenzie Grace Ceraso
B.S., Western Carolina University

Emily Benson Chatzky
B.A., Elon University
M.S.W., Columbia University

Nadia Tweed Cooper
B.A., Queens University of Charlotte

Matthew Edward Darr
B.A., Grand Valley State University

Hollie Elizabeth DeBaro
B.A., University of South Carolina

Kenneth Logan DeHart
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jonathan C. Dickey
B.S., Ferrum College

Preston Harry Edwards
B.A., Clemson University

Heidi Lynn Eggles
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Savannah Rose Eliseo-Tackett
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Rebecca Hubbard Elliott
B.S., Clemson University

Matthew Cameron Esterline
B.A., Wesleyan College
M.A., East Carolina University

Whitney Renee Eudy
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Margaret McNeill Eury
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Michael Magdy Fanous
B.S., B.A., East Carolina University

Kara Foster
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Savannah E. Fox
B.S., B.A., East Carolina University

Jacquelyn Renee Gauntlett
B.A., The Ohio State University

Richard Lewis Glenn III
B.A., University of Iowa

Stephanie Kathleen Gordon
B.S., Old Dominion University

John Matthew Grahl
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Zachary Wayne Green
B.S., Bluefield State College

Evan K. Gruetter
B.F.A., Marshall University
M.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Eboni L. Gunn
B.S., University of Central Florida
M.S.W., Boston College

Christian Melchizedek Hairston
B.S., Elon University

Tanzeel Hak
B.A., University of California – Davis

Edmond D. Haney
B.S., Florida Atlantic University

James Harris II
B.S., East Carolina University

Sarah Elizabeth Holmes
B.S., Davidson College

Haley Caroline Honeycutt
B.S., Appalachian State University

Allison Nicole Hopkins
B.S., Campbell University

Sadie Lea Huggins
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Cameron E. Johannesen
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Aysha Emily Johnson
B.A., George Mason University

Hannah Faith Joly
B.A., Campbell University

Cody Jeremiah Jones
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Joshua Hancock Jordan
B.A., East Carolina University

Spencer Kahn
B.S., West Virginia University

Mackenzie Ryan Karnes
B.A., University of Virginia

Reed Porter Kegel
B.A., Roanoke College

Stephanie Mullis Keller
B.S., University of Mary-Hardin Baylor

Jonathan Samuel Kidd
B.S., Western Carolina University

Je’vonne V. Knox
B.S., Medaille College

Joshua Landreth
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Joshua Tyler Lemon
B.S., Christopher Newport University

Corey Neil Lengyel
B.A., Coastal Carolina University
M.B.A., Coastal Carolina University

Zachary Paul Levins
B.S., Appalachian State University

Ira Lifland
B.A., High Point University

Hannah Grace Lindsley
B.S., Arkansas State University

Alexa Noelle Litt
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Haley Marie Lohr
B.S., North Carolina State University

Kathryn Magoon
B.S., The University at Buffalo, SUNY

Crystal Rose Mahannah
B.A., Florida Atlantic University

Kelsey Lane Martin
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Daniel Niles May
B.S., Beloit College

Jaclyn Frances McKeon
B.A., Elon University

Marissa D. McKoy
B.S., University of Georgia
M.E.L.P., Vermont Law School

Cody Earl McPherson
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Deborah Michelle Mergner
B.A., High Point University

Morgan Concetta Miano
B.A., High Point University

Ahmed Mohamed
B.S., The Pennsylvania State University

Ciara Dominique Moore
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Sade Moten
B.A., Alfred University

Edward Nappi
B.A., Flagler College

Kayla S. Neil
B.S., Colorado State University

William D. Norden
B.S., University of Mary Washington

Rolie Brozas Ohl
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington
M.P.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Myles C. Owens IV
B.A., William Peace University

Blake William Prescott Pecoraro
B.A., The College of Wooster

Daniel T. Perry IV
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jacob Oliver Pickett
B.A., High Point University

Charles A. Puher
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Brooke Rao
B.A., Lynn University

Kelli Patrice Rawlinson
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Thomas James Renda
B.S., Alabama State University

Sara Caraway Royster
B.S.W., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
M.S.W., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Christina Marie Saxon
B.S., Winston-Salem State University

Jana Newcomer Schaal
B.S., B.G.S., University of Mississippi

Nicholas P. Schloss
B.A., College of Charleston

Michelle Janae Scott
B.S., East Carolina University

Belinda See
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Alexandria Christine Shahade
B.A., Elon University

Meaghan Leigh Silva
B.A., Norwich University

Samantha Lee Smith
B.A., Davis and Elkins College

Hanna Stoner
B.S., Elon University

Bradlee Katherine Suggs
B.A., University of South Carolina

Shawn Michael Sweaney
B.S., United States Military Academy at West Point

William Christopher Tarpley
B.S., Elon University

Hannah G. Tombaugh
B.A., Mercyhurst University

Anastasia F. Tramontozzi
B.A., College of the Holy Cross

Tiffani Amber Wardle
B.A., St. John Fisher College

Shelby Elizabeth Wellmon
B.A., Catawba College

Alexis Adair Williams
B.A., Elon University

Karah Frances Yager
B.A., State University of New York at Albany

Samantha Louise Yantz
B.S., Appalachian State University

Jessica Leigh Young
B.S.W., James Madison University

Lauren Nicole Zickert
B.B.A., The University of Iowa