ABA president-elect to Elon Law graduates: ‘Say yes to service’

In her Commencement address to the Class of 2021, attorney Deborah Enix-Ross of the American Bar Association emphasized how "our justice system does not function properly when vulnerable people who are poor are forced to appear in court without a lawyer."

PHOTO GALLERY: 2021 Elon School of Law Commencement

American Bar Association President-elect Deborah Enix-Ross delivered the Commencement address to Elon Law’s Class of 2021 on December 11, 2021.

There’s a famous Shakespeare line that the president-elect of the American Bar Association wanted to share at Commencement for Elon Law’s Class of 2021: “’The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Why would anyone wish such violence on lawyers? Deborah Enix-Ross had one possible answer for graduates and their families who chuckled at the quote from Dick the Butcher in “Henry VI, Part 2.”

“It is because lawyers are guardians. Perhaps not of the galaxy, but certainly of the rule of law and democracy,” said Enix-Ross, an attorney with Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City who in August will take the helm as president of the world’s largest voluntary association of lawyers. “Our institutions are strong, but they are not invincible. They require the support and protection of lawyers to endure. It is our duty to preserve America’s rule of law and the credibility of our justice system.”

Elon University conferred degrees on 127 graduates Saturday inside Alumni Gym where members of the Class of 2021 gathered with friends and loved ones to celebrate the formal end of their legal education.

So how can Elon Law’s newest graduates serve as guardians? Enix-Ross proffered an answer to that question, too.

“Say yes to service, whether you practice in a large city firm, a small firm, a government agency, county attorney’s office, public defender’s office, a corporation, legal aid office, public interest group or other endeavor that can leverage your talents and interests,” she said. “There continues to be a major breach between the legal needs of people who have lower-incomes or are otherwise disadvantaged and the legal help that they receive. So when a mentor or a colleague asks you to join them in a bar or public service initiative, say yes.”

Elon Law conferred degrees on December 11, 2021, on 127 graduates in the Class of 2021.

Enix-Ross told graduates that they will be tested and challenged in any number of ways.

“Whatever the storms and pressures around us, we must always maintain our ethics, demonstrate civility and encourage respect for our institutions of law and values of justice,” she said. “As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said, ‘Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.’”

Enix-Ross noted that the Class of 2021 is graduating from an Elon Law program that emphasizes learning by doing and the importance of innovation. Elon Law has prepared graduates to be nimble in facing future challenges, she said, even as they have already learned to adapt to new ways during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She concluded her Commencement address by reminding graduates of her call to service: “My wish for you is that you too will be open to the possibilities that a simple ‘yes’ will have on your lives, remembering the adage, ‘You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.’”

The December 11 program was the first in-person Commencement for Elon Law since 2019. Graduates remained masked until crossing the stage to be hooded by Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman, serving in his final Commencement as dean before concluding his service and returning to the faculty, and receiving their diploma from Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book.

Sean Jeffcoat ’11 L’21
Kelsie Wiltse L’21

The School of Law’s 14th Commencement featured a welcome from Student Bar Association President Kelsie Wiltse L’21 and remarks from Sean Jeffcoat ’11 L’21, who thanked his classmates for electing him to deliver the student address.

Jeffcoat asked his classmates to “control what you can control” when times in life get tough. He spoke specifically to the bar exam that many graduates plan to take in February and, citing a former football coach, reminded graduates that over time the universe is “going to throw anything and everything at us.”

And life is not a competition, Jeffcoat said. “These grades won’t matter after this, but what you do is going to matter,” he added. “From this day forth, stop competing. Work together.  We came here to make the world a better place, so why not keep doing that?”

The program included the presentation of the David Gergen Award for Leadership & Professionalism, the highest honor bestowed by Elon Law each year on an individual from the graduating class whose activities represent the twin principles of leadership and professionalism.

The award is named in honor of David Gergen, a former adviser to four American presidents whose professional life and contributions have embodied the highest levels of selfless leadership and service. Gergen serves as chair of the Elon Law Advisory Board.

Elon Law Professor Steve Friedland presented the 2021 award to Allan Michael Davis, Jr.

Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book delivered a charge to graduates in Elon Law’s Class of 2021. She also explained the symbolism of the oak sapling gift all Elon University graduates receive at Commencement.

Book closed Commencement with a charge to graduates that emphasized the four tenets of the Elon University Honor Code – honesty, integrity, responsibility, and respect – and her expectation that graduates will use their strengths and skills to make a difference in the world.

“I charge you today to take those values into everything you do. And I’m confident that you will because you are Elon Law graduates,” she said. “I also hope that you display your Elon diploma proudly in your homes and your offices and that you stay connected to your new alma mater as Elon alumni. You are now lifelong members of the Elon family.”

Book concluded her charge by leading graduates in a traditional phrase heard often at university events: “Love live Elon!”

Candidates for the Degree of Juris Doctor in the Class of 2021

Ghulam Mamoona Akhunzada
B.A., B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Hunter Alexander Hampton Amos
B.A., Syracuse University

Lauren Marie Andrews
B.A., University of Kentucky

Emily Jean Arnold
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Destinee Danielle Astheimer
B.A., La Salle University

Ashanti Shar’mae Baker
B.S., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Jacob Keith Beeson
B.S., Appalachian State University

Chase Andrew Beguin
B.S., Guilford College

Esther Binder
B.S., Lehigh University

Johnna Rae Brooks
B.S., University of Delaware

Nolan A. Burns
B.A., University of South Carolina

Shena-Kaye Alexandra Butler
B.S., The University of Alabama

Zachary Connor Caffo
B.S., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Jacqueline Marie Cajigal
B.S., East Carolina University

Catharine A. Caperton
B.A., Transylvania University

Henry T. Carkhuff
B.S., Ferrum College

Kirk A. Carson
B.S., Liberty University

Andrew Parks Carter
B.A., University of Louisville

Brittany Elizabeth Chadwick
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kimberly Hewitt Clark
B.S., Wake Forest University

Benjamin Clair Clayton
B.S., North Carolina State University

Michael Robert Cline
B.S., Coastal Carolina University 
M.M.A., University of Washington

Taylor Elizabeth Cobb
B.A., B.F.A., Appalachian State University

Matthew Anthony Cogswell
B.A., University of Virginia

Alaina Nicole Cooper
B.A., The College of William & Mary

Kelley Creacy-Durham
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University 
M.A.T., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Colton Cauthen Crenshaw
B.A., Wofford College

Eric L. Cunningham
B.A., Elon University

Kathryn Marie Curran
B.A., Coastal Carolina University

Allan Michael Davis, Jr.
B.A., North Carolina State University

Samuel Wallace Deese
B.A., North Carolina State University

Joseph De Mond
B.A., Baylor University

James Eugene Donnell
B.A., Elon University

Jacob Alton Drouillard
B.S., Lees-McRae College

Karey Mitchell Epps II
B.A., University of South Carolina

Daniel Michael Esposito
B.A., North Carolina State University

Jasmine Elaine Etheridge
B.S., Liberty University

Zechariah Carr Etheridge
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Brittany Rae Eudy
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Elizabeth Ann Farmer
B.A., Clemson University

Madison Alexandra Fields
B.S., Towson University

Alexis Victoria Gadzinski
B.A., East Carolina University

Amy Nicole Grener
B.S., B.A., High Point University

Stephanie Catherine Grove
B.S., Reinhardt University

Michael Richard Hammersley
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Reyona L. Hammond
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Rosa Maria Hannah
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Lauren Michelle Hausman
B.S., University of Florida
M.I.B., University of Florida

Paris Elaun Henderson
B.A., Virginia Commonwealth University

Sara Marie Henderson
B.S., Lees-McRae College

John Brady Hess
B.A., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Aerin Nicole Hickey
B.A., University of Georgia

Veronica Gutierrez Higinson
B.S., Appalachian State University

Todd Stephen Hill
B.A., Emory & Henry College

Mallory Elizabeth Hopkins
B.A., Presbyterian College

Cheyene Mychele Huff
B.S., Radford University

Kaitlyn D. Jackson
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Areli Garcia Jaimes
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte 
M.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Kionie Ka’Tya James
B.A., Wofford College
M.A., Regent University

Sean Antón Jeffcoat
B.A., Elon University

Melanie Lea Kendrick
B.S., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Robert L. Kester, Jr.
B.A., North Carolina State University

William Kibbe
B.A., University of South Carolina

Erica Kathleen King
B.A., The College of William & Mary

Ayowunmi Rosalyn Kuforiji
B.A., Wesley College

Luke Noel Landis
B.A., Wittenberg University
M.Ed., The College of William & Mary

Jessica Lynn Leach
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kathryn Nicole Levonick
B.S., Florida State University

Haley R. Litaker
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Gabriella Elizabeth Lopez
B.A., Nova Southeastern University

Valerie Elizabeth Lott
B.S., Louisiana Tech University 
M.Ed., Vanderbilt University

Samuel Vankat Luchansky
B.A., Belmont Abbey College

Meghan Paige Macleay
B.S., Virginia Commonwealth University

Aamir Delores Ailene Madison
B.S., Hampton University
MBA, Hampton University

Thomas Elliott Mahon
B.A., University of South Carolina

Anna Christine Marquardt
B.A., Trinity International University

Zackary Aron Marty Martinez
B.S., East Carolina University

Andrew James McLawhorn
B.A., North Carolina State University

Mackenzie Marie Mills
B.A., Meredith College

Christopher Montalbano
B.A., Seton Hill University

Miranda Leanne Nickelston
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Cameron Elizabeth Nieters
B.A., Harvard University

Tessa Danielle Olinger
B.A., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Georgiana Marchele Pennell
B.A., B.A., Georgia College & State University

Allison Kaye Dixon
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Kyle Pierce
B.A., Campbell University

Hailey Maryanne Porterfield
B.S.B.A., High Point University

Shannon Prom Burnett
B.A., University of Indiana

Deja Shaunice Reid
B.A., Winston-Salem State University

Megan Gerard Reilly-Dreas
B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz

Kaleigh Patricia Reynolds
B.S., Misericordia University

Cassidy B. Richardson
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Joshua Matthew Ricken
B.A., Elon University 
M.E.L.P., Vermont Law School

Thomas James-Arthur Roberson
B.A., Christopher Newport University

Anna Leigh Robertson
B.S., Virginia Commonwealth University

Samuel Isaac Rotenstreich
B.S., University of Alabama

MaKenzie Grace Rowland
B.A., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Mary Elizabeth Lyons Royal
B.I.S., Villanova University

Maggie Mae Rymshaw
B.A., Belmont Abbey College

Charlie K. Schatz
B.A., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Mary J.C. Segal
B.A., The University of Alabama in Huntsville

Natalie Shapansky
B.A., B.A., Widener University

Emily Slusser
B.A., Meredith College

Hunter JoAnne Smith
B.A., Florida State University 
M.E.L.P., Vermont Law School

Julia Grace Soprano
B.L.S., University of South Carolina

Barbara Rose Spencer
B.A., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Erin A. Springer
B.A., New Jersey City University

Emily Elizabeth Squicciarini
B.S., University of South Carolina

Zoé Renee Stein
B.S., Nova Southeastern University

Ataesheeana L. Storr
B.A., North Carolina Central University

Riley Alexius Sullivan
B.A., University of Wisconsin

Aerin Elizabeth Tarvin
B.S., American University

Andrew Nii Lamtei Tawiah
B.A., University of Maryland

Goodrich August Thiel III
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Allison Thomas
B.A., University of North Florida

Noah Anisa Comilla Trotter
B.A., Furman University

Karmen Kiarra Tubbs
B.A., The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Pime Ismael Ugarte
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Sidney Brooke Vaught
B.A., American University 
M.E.L.P., Vermont Law School

Dalen Ward
B.S., Northern Arizona University

Mallory Rae Ward
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mara Jill Weisman
B.A., Miami University of Ohio 
M.Ed., University of Cincinnati 
M.A., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Mary Williams
B.A., East Carolina University

Savannah Victoria Williamson
B.A., Auburn University

Jared Emerson Willis
B.A., Guilford College

Kelsie Anne Wiltse
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Savannah Nicole Yale
B.S., Guilford College