UNH Law honors Class of 2016 at Commencement
The University of New Hampshire School of Law awarded 90 degrees to juris doctor and graduate students during the school’s 41st commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 21, 2016.
The ceremony also celebrated the life of UNH Law professor Calvin Massey, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer, and featured the awarding of honorary degrees to a pair of pioneering women in the world of intellectual property law in Sharon Prost, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Michelle Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
UNH Law Interim Dean Jordan Budd opened the proceedings by thanking the students for all that they’ve given back to the school before UNH President Mark Huddleston offered a welcome of his own, telling the graduates that “the degrees you’ll receive today represent a tremendous amount of hard work, intellect, tremendous talent … and a lot of grit.”
Martha Massey, wife of the late Calvin Massey, addressed the graduates next in honor of her husband as part of the annual tradition of Advice from the Faculty, thanking them for their thoughtful compassion as Calvin battled illness and noting that Calvin had been “absolutely energized” by teaching the graduates.
“Thank you, and Jordan Budd and the whole UNH Law community, for all the support you gave to Calvin and me. It made a very hard time a little bit less hard for both of us,” Martha Massey said. “I’m sure Calvin would exhort you to carry into the rest of your life the qualities he saw in his classroom, and most importantly to cherish this special time we’re all given on this earth.”
Professor emeritus Mitchell Simon also spoke warmly of Calvin Massey during his Advice from the Faculty address, recalling many thoughtful conversations they shared in which Massey showed a willingness to consider all sides of an argument. In delivering his message, Simon adapted the 1992 “Be Like Mike” Gatorade advertising campaign featuring Michael Jordan.
“My advice to you is going to be very simple … be like Calvin,” Simon said. “I can say with certainty that if you follow Calvin’s lead, you will be a better lawyer. If you understand the facts on the other side of the case, you can better persuade, you can better educate, you can better represent your client. And, more importantly, if you live those values, you will be a better human being, and I believe we’ll be a better society.”
Jerome Muniken, who received a Master of Laws in Intellectual Property degree, was selected by his classmates as the graduate student speaker. He explained that UNH Law and Concord became a home to him and his graduate program classmates, noting that one student extended her stay for a second semester because she’d enjoyed the experience so much and another was so comfortable she had her husband join her, and he enrolled in the school, as well.
“Last summer, a handful of us arrived in Concord from all around the globe to study intellectual property,” Muniken said. “One thing that’s for sure, we are leaving UNH Law with way more than just a diploma.”
James McClure, the speaker for the juris doctor graduates, highlighted the preparation skills he and his classmates obtained at UNH Law.
“So much of good lawyering is about preparation,” McClure said. “We have the skills now to be ready at that crucial moment when our name is called.”
Lee and Prost were both awarded honorary degrees. Lee began her remarks by recalling an IP course she took as a graduate student at MIT taught by Robert Rines – the founder of Franklin Pierce Law Center, now UNH Law. He offered advice and took Lee on a tour of the school and its patent office, becoming “one of the key influences” in her life.
Lee celebrated UNH Law’s “rich tradition of promoting public service” and encouraged the students to follow that path. “Life is about more than just going to work to earn a living,” Lee said. “It’s equally important to help others to give back and to lead efforts to make differences in our communities.”
A similar choice to depart the private sector for a career in public service led Lee to become one of the most influential people in her field.
“Opportunities present themselves sometimes when and where you least expect it, and I viewed public service as an opportunity to make a difference,” she said. “Now I have the tremendous privilege of being the first woman to lead the United States Patent and Trademark Office in its more than 225 year history. There will be opportunities for all of you to give back to your community, and to your country, no matter what area of the law you choose to practice in. In the years ahead, our communities will only need more able public servants, who can apply the skills that you have honed over these past three years.”
Prost similarly encouraged the graduates to be ready for anything, telling them to do what they love and to “never let ‘I’m too junior’ or ‘I’m not experienced enough’ be your reason for passing up a great opportunity.” She also implored them to improve the communities around them through their work.
“There’s so much noise out there … as lawyers, don’t forget, you are the stewards of the law. And no matter how loud the noise, our profession is one of integrity, and this country’s legal and judicial system is the greatest in the world,” she said. “A law degree is a powerful thing. You will have the opportunity to do great things, to improve the lives of others, to move and shape the rules governing our lives. Take the tools you have learned over the past years and do something of consequence with them.”
Budd concluded the ceremony with a similar message, encouraging the graduates to fight against resistance in society to be agents of positive change.
“You’ve learned many skills over the last three years, and during that time you’ve acquired perhaps the most important and defining attribute of your profession, which is the ability and inclination to exercise reasoned judgment,” Budd said. “That skill, that attribute, is at times an unfortunately scarce commodity in our world. I think it is what most powerfully distinguishes you as law graduates – it’s your distinctive predisposition to understand an argument before rejecting it. There will always be disagreement in our society … the only question for us then is how will we choose to disagree? Will we do so respectfully, or will we just raise our voices. You will model the exercise of reason and judgment for a society that seems at times to have forgotten how to do so. You will be guardians, along with all the rest of your fellow members of the legal profession, of reason, in an increasingly unreasonable world. And while that world may not always appreciate its great good fortune, it is very lucky to have you.”