(Boston, Revised 07/12/11) New England Law | Boston: Get it right; do it quickly; and keep a smile on your face. Jane Sullivan Roberts’s Commencement remarks aptly illustrated these self-described keys to her success, and with warmth and humor she encouraged New England Law | Boston graduates to learn from her example.
Roberts, a partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Major, Lindsey & Africa, the preeminent national attorney search firm, delivered the address at the 100th Commencement on Friday, May 27, 2011.
Before joining Major, Lindsey & Africa, Mrs. Roberts was executive partner for talent development at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, after serving as partner in the firm’s Global Technology Group. She clerked for the Honorable James M. Sprouse of the Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the 1984–1985 term and in 1992 litigated before Australian courts with a leading Australian law firm, then called Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks.
“As we observe a century of graduations—beginning in 1911 with a handful of young women—we were especially pleased to welcome an accomplished woman lawyer with wide experience in various aspects of the legal profession,” said Dean John F. O’Brien.
Despite her extensive legal and life experience, Roberts effortlessly bridged the gap between herself and the students set to graduate. She related her Bronx upbringing, the “patchwork of scholarships, campus jobs, and countless sacrifices by my parents” that enabled her to attend college, and the many jobs she held to make ends meet.
She also noted the significance of this year’s event. “What a tremendous honor to join all of you for this centennial commencement at New England Law | Boston, the first law school to dare to offer a legal education to women exclusively,” said Roberts. “At one point, fully a quarter of all women in the law were graduates of your alma mater, back when it was called Portia Law School.
“Portia graduates went on to become leaders in the bar, trailblazers who set the standard for women in the legal profession today,” she continued. “Because of those trailblazers, many of us…now have choices in our legal careers. Not only every woman who is a lawyer today, but every member of the bar, owes a debt of gratitude to New England Law.”
Meghan C. Cooper ’11 and Jacqueline L. Johansen ’11 received the Dean Arthur W. MacLean Award for Academic Excellence for the day and evening divisions, respectively, and delivered the valedictory addresses. Both earned summa cum laude designations. Magna cum laude and cum laude recipients were also acknowledged, and additional awards were granted in several categories.
Mrs. Roberts was presented with the honorary doctor of laws degree, and honorary degrees were also awarded to the Honorable Margot Botsford, associate justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (doctor of laws); the Honorable Frederica S. Brenneman, judge trial referee, State of Connecticut (doctor of laws); and Carol Fulp, senior vice president, Corporate Responsibility and Brand Initiatives, John Hancock Financial (doctor of humanities).
Mrs. Roberts’s professional accomplishments are matched by her tremendous devotion to education and service. She is a recent recipient of the James Cardinal Hickey Award from Catholic Charities and was named one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in Washington, D.C., by the National Law Journal. She sits on a number of boards, including those of the John Carroll Society, Citizens for Affordable Energy, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and she is co-chair of Women in Law Empowerment Forum–D.C. She has been active at her former college and high school, serving in the past as trustee of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and facilitating a large scholarship donation to St. Catharine Academy in the Bronx.
Mrs. Roberts received an A.B. magna cum laude from the College of the Holy Cross, a Dip. Ed. from the University of Melbourne, an M.Sc. from Brown University, and a J.D. cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center. Before attending law school, she taught high school and college mathematics and served as a systems engineer at Bell Laboratories.
“Mrs. Roberts is a distinguished member of the legal profession, and we were very fortunate that she accepted our invitation to speak at Commencement,“ said Dean O’Brien. “I was unfamiliar with her very impressive background and achievements until I had the good fortune to meet her in the summer of 2009, when her husband, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., was teaching in our program in Galway, Ireland.”
As in years past, graduates processed from the law school to the Citi Performing Arts Center, Wang Theatre. The ceremony began at 11 a.m. and featured the awarding of 309 diplomas.