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Graduates Urged to “Pick Up a Shovel”

Chief Justice Marshall addressed the graduates.
Chief Justice Marshall delivered the Commencement address.

Class of 2009 Called to Service, Entrusted with Protection of the Rule of Law

(Boston, Revised 07/12/11) New England Law | Boston:Boston, MA—New England Law | Boston’s Centennial year was punctuated with a call to action on Friday, May 22, as members of the Class of 2009 received their diplomas during a Commencement ceremony at the Citi Performing Arts Center.  The event featured an inspirational address by the Honorable Margaret H. Marshall, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, along with the granting of student awards and honorary degrees. Catherine Murdock Dewey (’30), the law school’s oldest known living graduate, was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Chief Justice Marshall credited her opportunities for advancement to visionaries such as the founders of New England Law, which was called Portia Law School when it was established in 1908 as the nation’s first law school exclusively for women.  A female justice became a possibility, she explained, “All because the founders of Portia Law School…saw something in the abstract principle of equal justice under law that their contemporaries simply could not imagine.  Collectively, bit by bit, these men and women chipped away at the granite face of prejudice, revealing another dimension of the human spirit.”

She recounted her struggle as a college student against “the juggernaut of apartheid” in her native South Africa and the encouragement provided when Senator Robert F. Kennedy visited her nation in 1966. 

Chief Justice Marshall exhorted graduates to make a contribution to improving their world, emphasizing that even small acts are meaningful.  She illustrated her point by recounting the efforts of modern-day Pakistani students who, wanting to combat widespread hopelessness, set out with shovels to pick up trash.

“You want to do something?” said one young organizer.  “Pick up a shovel.”  The chief justice added, “I could not say it more eloquently.”

Catherine Murdock Dewey receive her honorary degree.
(L-R) Trustee Kathleen Pfeifer Spurling ('88), Catherine Murdock Dewey ('30), Chairman Martin C. Foster ('80).

Honorary Degree Recipients

The program’s highlights included the awarding of the following honorary degrees.

  • JudyAnn Bigby, M.D., secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (doctor of humanities)
  • Catherine Murdock Dewey (’30) (doctor of laws)
  • Angela Menino, Boston’s First Lady and a founding member of both the Boston Women’s Commission and the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (doctor of humanities)
  • Aaron D. Spencer, founder, director, and chairman emeritus of UNO Chicago Grill (doctor of humanities)
  • James E. Vallee (’91), Massachusetts state representative and House majority leader (doctor of laws)

Warmth and Wisdom

Opening the program, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Martin C. Foster (’80) said, “I congratulate all of the graduates of the class of 2009 for this achievement – earning a J.D. degree.  This only comes through hard work and commitment.  We are very proud of each of you and wish you and your families all the best on this happy day.”

Bethany Parsons receives congratulations from Dean O'Brien.
The dean congratulates Bethany Parsons.

Dean John F. O’Brien (’77) made note of the Centennial year in his remarks to the class, stating, “I hope that you, the graduates of 2009, feel a special pride that the culmination of your own experience at New England Law is also the capstone of such a significant year for the law school community.  That can only enhance the satisfaction that you and your families feel today.” 

The dean had special reason to celebrate this year as his daughter, Kara, was among the 313 graduates.  In one of the ceremony's many touching moments, Kara's proud father presented her with flowers and a warm embrace when she processed onto the stage.

The Honorable Darrell L. Outlaw (’61), president of New England Law | Boston, urged the graduates to stay involved with their school as he has done.  Judge Outlaw said, “That has proven to be my second great experience with New England Law – as part of a supportive, active, and committed group of people who all believe in the power of education and the distinctive opportunities New England Law provides.”

Valedictory addresses were delivered by Michael J. Ticcioni and Keith A. Garland on behalf of day division and evening division students, respectively.  As the summa cum laude graduates of their divisions, they both received the Dean Arthur W. MacLean Award for Academic Excellence.

Student Awards

In addition to the Dean Arthur W. MacLean Award for Academic Excellence, the following the following student awards were presented.  (Note:  New England Law | Boston continues to grant diplomas and give awards under its legal name, New England School of Law.)

  • Trace W. Rakestraw and Celicia Ugarte  (Trustee Bradbury Gilbert Award for Excellence in Achievement)
  • Alaina L. Ramsey, Abigail C. Ross, Amanda E. Tarzwell, and Antonio L. Trubiano (New England School of Law Service Award)
  • Jessica S. Babine, Megan A. Kremer, Brittany R. Vanderhoof, and Michael Y. Zhang (New England School of Law Outstanding Scholastic Achievement Award)
  • Adonia R. Simpson and Lauren E. Vitale (President Anna E. Hirsch Award)
  • Marlee S. Furman (Dean Timothy J. Cronin, Jr., Memorial Award)
  • Tara N. Cho (Dean’s Award).

The Future is in Their Hands

Before the graduates were handed their diplomas, Chief Justice Marshall conferred upon them the responsibility of ensuring continued justice.  She said, “We place in your hands the welfare of your communities.  We place in your hands the future of the rule of law.  We trust that you will pick up your shovels.  We trust that you will go beyond the limits of the possible.  As heirs to the pioneering legacy of New England School of Law, you have abundantly earned that trust.”

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