On May 16, BU Law faculty, professors and the Class of 2010 convened at the Agganis Arena for this year’s Commencement ceremony. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who delivered the 2010 Commencement speech, joined the graduates and their families in the celebration. Following Attorney General Holder, L.L.M. student Amy Kaufman-McLellan and J.D. student Matthew Hyner delivered two powerful speeches, rich with both nostalgia and optimism. Having received their degrees, graduates mingled and rejoiced at a following reception.
The 137th BU Law Commencement at Agganis Arena couldn’t have been held on a nicer spring Sunday morning, as 487 students received their J.D.s and LL.M.s. and welcomed Commencement Speaker U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
Holder shared a little of his achievements since he graduated in 1976 from Columbia Law School -- he drew applause when he talked about ushering in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Act recently signed by President Obama that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals from vicious hate crimes.
But he mostly focused on the graduates, sending them down memory lane one more time to recall the hawk that lives at the Tower, the many hours they spent helping Hurricane Katrina victims and immigrants in Texas, as well as adding scholarship to the financial regulatory system reforms. And he gave a nod to the “extraordinarily well-rounded professors” such as Professor Hugh Baxter, who helped with yoga poses; Professor William Ryckman, who not only taught property law but also proper fashion; and Professor Mark Pettit, who “made sure you understood both contract and consumer law, as well as the value of being able to rap our legal code.”
More importantly, he recognized that the graduates were launching their careers while “entering an uncertain world” colored by recession, terrorist threats and war. Rather than pity, he issued a challenge. “You have not been dealt a bad hand—you have been given a rare opportunity,” he said. “Consider the many examples throughout history of people your age, with exactly your training, who have improved the course of our country and strengthened the structures and rules that govern our society. And then consider how many of those leaders were trained in the law.”
>>Read Holder's full speech here
Dean Maureen O’Rourke also recognized the tough job market, but reminded graduates about the legacy as well as supportive community that they helped build at BU Law. “You have seen each other through personal struggles of pain and loss, and leaned on each other through it all,” she told the graduates. “Finally, you have kept your perspective, understanding that the economy is cyclical, and seizing the opportunity to reassess—to find the work you were meant to do.”
Dean O’Rourke also welcomed back two retired faculty members Fran Miller and Bill Ryckman, and recognized the retirement of Professor Neil Hecht after 46 years of teaching.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Delivers 2010 Commencement Speech
Eric H. Holder Jr., was sworn in as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2009 by Vice President Joe Biden. President-elect Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Mr. Holder on December 1, 2008. An accomplished jurist, litigator and prosecutor of public corruption cases, Mr. Holder was named by President Bill Clinton in 1997 to be the Deputy Attorney General, the first African American named to that post. Prior to that, he served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1988, Mr. Holder was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to become an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Matthew graduated cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis with a bachelors in Political Science. Following graduation, Matthew served as director of publicity at Ruder Finn Press, a PR firm in New York City. While at BU Law, Matthew served as the vice president of the Student Government Association, head of the Community Affairs Council, and founder of the School’s Dodge Ball Charity Tournament. In between playing Scrabble and rooting for the Boston Celtics, Matthew spent his 1L summer as a legislative intern at the Massachusetts State House. The following year, he worked in New York City as a summer associate with Brown Rudnick. This fall, Matthew will join Brown Rudnick as a litigation associate.
Good morning proud parents, bored siblings, extended family, supportive friends, dedicated administrators, esteemed faculty, and The Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Eric Holder. To my classmates, the BU Law Class of 2010, I say good morning and congratulations. Honestly, I don’t know what else to say.
What do you say to a graduating class rife with unemployment, burdened by a mountain of debt, trying to find its way in one of the harshest economic landscapes in decades?
A cloud of uncertainty shrouds our graduation and our future. Today, this speech, and this graduating class, has two options. We can look back at what we have accomplished and be proud. Or we can look ahead to what we will accomplish and be excited. I’m going to set out on both paths and let you, using the deductive reasoning garnered over the last 3 years, choose.
Law school is one of the most elaborate academic hazing rituals the world has ever known. Moreover, it’s a masochistic experience that we all chose. Now, ask any practicing lawyer about his or her 1L year and most won’t be able to recite case names or remember holdings. Some won’t remember professors’ names or even all of the subjects studied. Yet, almost everyone will remember 1L year as being…well, awful.
What makes 1L year awful? Let me count the ways. First, given that the faculty is sitting up here and I have my back to them—exposed—I should clarify that if anything, the BU Law faculty is the one bright light in the abyss that is 1L year.
However, the Socratic method, while effective, is in a word: evil. So let me get this straight, it’s my first week of law school, and now my professor wants me to speak publicly about topics that I don’t understand in front of people I don’t know? To the BU Law Class of 2010, we made it through the Socratic method 1L year, and of that we should be proud.
Add the panic-inducing Socratic method to brief writing, moot court, and the almost unavoidable discovery that despite constantly succeeding before law school, most of us will have to learn to love the curve. Of course, 1L year is defined by more than just academic experiences. Seeing the same 90 people, day…after day…after day…after day…can be a little trying as well. Law school becomes high school replete with lockers, gossip, a prom, and more gossip. To the BU Law Class of 2010, we made it through 1L year without killing each other, and of that we should be proud.
Beyond the generalities of law school life, BU Law provides some specific challenges that the BU Law Class of 2010 overcame. Oh, the tower. Within the first 2 weeks of school, we all realized the importance of layers, layers, layers. While the Boston weather can be at times unpredictable, it always seemed to pale in comparison to the unpredictability of the “weather” in the Tower. Too hot, too cold, but never really just right. Yet the Tower is our Tower. Much like making fun of a sibling, those of us that attended school in the Brutalist architectural excellence of the tower could mock it, but no one else could. In fact, the cramped elevators, bad coffee and cozy locker space served as an odd bonding experience. Still though, to the BU Law Class of 2010, we survived the Tower and of that we should be proud.
Within the cement walls of 765 Commonwealth Avenue, we thrived for three long years through good times and 1L year. Whether as a member of the criminal clinic or the Student Government Association, a moot court team or a journal, an intramural basketball squad or just a reliable study group, we, the BU Law Class of 2010, succeeded in our time in the Tower and of that we should be proud.
To define path number two, I turn briefly to one of the most influential and important men of the last two decades. In one of his works, it is said, “It ain’t where I been, but where I’m about to go!” Now, many of you may not know this, but Jay Z, or HOVA, as he’s known in the hard-knock streets of suburban Connecticut, did not write that line about legal education. Still, for the BU Law Class of 2010, in this rough economic environment, maybe it’s not about where we’ve been, but rather, where we’re about to go.
Looking at my classmates, I see an amazing future. I see success at law firms big and small. I see future legislators, governors, judges, professors and entrepreneurs. I see pillars of the community, the type of people that others look to for guidance and support. Beyond that, I see wonderful parents, supportive friends and happiness.
Now, we are not entitled to this success. Simply graduating from law school as we are doing here today guarantees nothing. Times are tough now. Expectations have been altered; loans are weighing us down, but we will succeed. We may have to break the typical legal model. We may have to work harder than our predecessors and face adversity at every turn, but the BU Law Class of 2010 will do great things. There IS a light at the end of this tunnel and it’s NOT the T.
Thank you for your time. Choose your paths wisely. To the BU Law Class of 2010: again, I say, good morning, and congratulations.
Amy has been a member of the Massachusetts Bar since 1994. She received her doctorate in jurisprudence from Northeastern University School of Law and her Bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, where she graduated with Honors, and was the recipient of several awards including the Student Affairs Award and a Sanctity of Life Award. She devoted several years of her legal career to public interest law before going into private practice as an estate planning and tax law attorney. Attorney Kaufman-McLellan is a contributing author to several books including: Love, Money and Control; A Practical Guide to Estate Planning and serves as an Adjunct Tax Law Professor at Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Massachusetts. She and her husband enjoy life with their three young children in a quiet town in southern New Hampshire.
Welcome to all of our families, friends, guests, faculty and my fellow graduates. I am honored to speak on behalf of the Boston University LL.M. programs. As many of you are aware, Boston University School of Law offers advanced legal studies in Taxation, Banking, Intellectual Property and American Law. I want to acknowledge the rich diversity of the LL.M. student body and all of the families who are joining us here today. Some of you have travelled from quite a distance. In fact, in our LL.M. programs, we have students from over 25 countries across the globe. The international presence in the program made our social time and our time in the classroom much more interesting and enjoyable.
I started the LL.M. program in Tax Law several years ago and never thought I would finish. I am giddy and ecstatic to have made it to this day! As a mother of three young children, I have found that my studies have enabled me to maintain perspective and keep my intellect active. Yes, there are chips all over the floor and chocolate yogurt smooshed into the carpet, but I now understand what will happen if I ignore that notice of deficiency from the IRS. The frustrations of putting together a bicycle pales in comparison to understanding the intricacies of the American legal system. I have spent many hormonal nights during my pregnancies, reading my law school textbooks in order to help me sleep. I must confess that it usually worked. So, in a strange way, this program has brought balance into my life, and I am very grateful for it.
The graduate law program at Boston University has also brought a blend of intense challenge and utter joy. The entire experience made me feel young and alive—to be engaged in an international community; on this beautiful campus; with a fine teaching staff; a knapsack laden with stimulating, yet very heavy, books; and the tremendous sights of Boston around me. Of course, my kids have enjoyed the fact that I go to school too (just not on a big yellow bus).
I have come to appreciate that knowledge of the American legal system is so very valuable. It was the Commissioner of the IRS that brought down Al Capone with tax law violations, and the recent near-collapse of the banking system almost brought the entire world economy to a halt. Our legal system is an extremely messy and cumbersome system. I feel as if I have trained to be a guide for navigating down the Nile or through the jungle where the Wild Things Are. Armed with our specialized knowledge, we are now capable of helping people maneuver through an incredible maze of information and calculations.
I am keenly aware that it is a privilege to have attained an LL.M. degree and one that not many people can claim. In this time of economic turmoil, with so many unemployed and facing financial ruin, we are in a unique position. Perhaps you will:
- help a company work through some tax or financial issues so they can hire more employees
- assist individuals or businesses in handling affairs in multiple jurisdictions around the world
- represent someone through an audit
- help an inventor start a business or protect their life’s work
- win an important case
- or work to make policies in this country and around the world more compatible, more equitable and more understandable.
In small and large ways, I am sure we will each find this knowledge to be important.
Having a family has taught me that the best way to live life is to strive for the ideal while at the same time taking pleasure in the day-to-day. I have this image of the ideal wife and mother—you know the one from the ’50s in the neat white apron and the perfect smile. Every day I make mistakes, make amends, and find something to laugh about. I know I am far from my ideal—just ask my kids—but all I can do is keep trying.
As advocates, fighting for our clients, with the rigorous demands of a legal career and the burden of financial concerns, it is easy to lose perspective. There aren’t many images of the ideal lawyer, but there are many images of the greedy, ruthless and unfeeling attorney. Despite our individual challenges, we each have the opportunity to re-make this image. I am grateful for the wonderful role models I have found in our professors and many of my fellow classmates.
I encourage you all to embrace the best qualities and the wisdom that we have experienced in the LL.M. Program, and to use it to the best of your abilities—with kindness and integrity, humor and humility. Imagine what your contribution could be towards that Ideal Attorney.
My last and most important piece of advice:
Now that you are an Attorney with specialized knowledge, absolutely everyone you know is going to solicit your opinion and advice, so remember always, always to have on hand a colleague’s business card —or for my fellow tax attorneys—a really great calculator.
Congratulations on achieving such a fine degree—and remember to USE IT WELL!
Awards and prizes
Sebastian Horsten Award is named after the Class of 2000 alum who graduated first in his class at BU Law and was to begin a diplomatic mission for the German embassy in Pretoria, South Africa when he was killed in a robbery attempt; the award honors a student who likewise achieves the highest cumulative grade point average in the Masters’ program in American law:
For more information on the Sebastian Horsten Prize, click here.
American Law Outstanding Achievement Award: To the student who has demonstrated excellence in academic achievement, honorable conduct, and contributions to the class:
Graduate Tax Program Academic Achievement Award to the Class of 2010 student in that program with the highest cumulative grade point average:
Luke Thomas Tashjian
Ernest M. Haddad Award to the graduating Graduate Tax Program student who best exhibits overall ability, taking into consideration academic achievement, character, and potential to serve the public interest:
David Earl Foate
A. John Serino Outstanding Graduate Banking Law Student Prizes, for outstanding academic achievement and dedication to the highest standards of scholarship and service:
Dennis S. Aronowitz Award for Academic Excellence, to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average in the Banking Law program:
Will Coffee Giles
Michael Melton Award for Excellence in Teaching is named for a longtime faculty member who taught in the tax area and was director of the Graduate Tax Program, who died in 1999 at 53:
Professor David Walker
David Saul Smith Award for Scholarship: Robert P. Smith (’65) made a generous gift in honor of his father - also an alum - to assist the faculty in their scholarship:
Professor Kevin Outterson
John Stephen Baerst Award for Excellence in Teaching, named for the director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law (1996-2005) who died in 2006:
Professor Stuart Fross
William L. and Lillian Berger Achievement Prizes for exemplary scholastic achievement:
Dustin F. Guzior and David Michael Rosenberg
Faculty Award for Community Service, for students who have shown exceptional dedication to public-minded ideals and service to the greater community:
Lindsey A. Gil and Kimberly Ann Parr
Sylvia Beinecke Robinson Award, for a student who has made particularly outstanding contributions to the life of the School of Law:
Anuj Kumar Khetarpal
Spencer R. Koch Memorial Award, for outstanding contributions to the work of the Esdaile Alumni Center through alumni outreach:
Honorable Albert P. Pettoruto Memorial Award to the student who displays excellence in the field of probate or family law:
Tuozhi Lorna Zhen
Melville M. Bigelow Scholarship Awards are given to the members of the graduating class who show the greatest promise as scholars and teachers of law:
Jonathan Adam Holland and Stephanie B. Hoffman
Peter Bennett Prize recognizes academic perseverance, awarded to the graduating law student who attained the highest grade point average in the third year of study:
Claire R. Superfine
Alumni Academic Achievement Award to the student who has achieved the highest cumulative grade-point average in the three-year J.D. program:
Robert G. Little
Dr. John Ordronaux Prize to a graduate who, taking into account scholarly excellence, character and conduct, has performed with the greatest overall distinction:
Sarah J. Kitchell
Warren S. Gilford Humanity and Law Prize to students who have displayed humanitarian interest in law and special dedication to work in the public interest:
Mohammad Hasan Ali