University of New Hampshire

School of Law

School of Law

UNH Law’s class of 2011 honored at commencement

On Saturday, May 21, 2011, 176 students were the first to receive degrees from the newly named University of New Hampshire School of Law. The former Franklin Pierce Law Center  affiliated with the state university in August of 2010.

There to mark the occasion was another first: the members of the class of 1976, the first to graduate from the school. The then-Franklin Pierce Law Center's upstart beginnings were the focus of admiration and nostalgia from those graduates, who noted that the school wouldn't be where it is today without its innovative founders and spirit.

In its inception, the school "was billed an experiment in legal education, and we became the lab rats," joked James Conway, historian for the class of '76. But "without us and the other risk-takers that were involved at that time, we wouldn't be here today."

Three distinguished guests were also there to mark the occasion, and to receive honorary degrees from the school: Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, herself an alumna of UNH Law and the commencement speaker; famed Constitutional scholar and Harvard Professor Laurence H. Tribe; and Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.

"There's something special about this law school," Edwards told the graduates. She chose UNH Law because "I wanted an intimate learning environment, I wanted an institution that treated me as more than just a number on a blue book."

The school's global perspective and student body were also highlighted. Kanav Hasija, who received his Master of Intellectual Property degree at UNH Law on Saturday, told the students, "Today is the the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue, and I see that in this school."

The 2011 graduating students represented 35 states and the District of Columbia, as well as eight countries.

Hasija, who is from India, joked that the climate had been his biggest cultural challenge. "Whoever claimed that global warming is a big issue, please come to New Hampshire in December and say that," he said to laughter.

Brian Buonamano, who received his JD degree, said UNH Law had given him an outward focus. "Law school is not about the lawyer. The law is not about the lawyer." He told the graduates: "Feel good right now; appreciate this moment. Appreciate the fact that you have made it this far. Once it's over, it's not going to be about you anymore."

Two more honorary degrees were awarded at the commencement ceremony, to Dean Emeritus John Hutson and to Doug Wood, the outgoing chair of the UNH Law Board of Trustees. The longtime friends surprised each other with the degrees in an exchange that left neither's eyes dry.

Each gave the other credit for the school's continued success and recent affiliation. "For as long as this school exists, we will be a better place for being the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and that is because of Doug Wood," Hutson said.

Professor Charles Temple, himself an alum, was chosen by the students to give "advice from the faculty" at the ceremony.

"As I look out at these faces . . . I have seen your grace," he told them. "I have seen your loving kindness extended to others who are far less fortunate than you. I have seen your compassion. Your very presence, class of 2011, has brought comfort to the weary all over the world. There is no class like this anywhere, at any law school in the United States of America."