The Columns

School of Law Honors Graduates at 2015 Commencement Ceremony

— by on May 9th, 2015

The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 160th commencement on Saturday, May 9, awarding 174 juris doctor degrees.

In contrast to last year’s rainy weather, clear skies and bright sun shown over the commencement ceremony, which began with an official welcome from President Ken Ruscio and remarks from Dean Nora Demleitner, who recounted the many successes of the Law Class of 2015. She also noted the class size, largest in the school’s history.

“You changed the standard for the W&L experience, and you made it a better one,” said Demleitner.

The graduates were then awarded their degrees.

Related: Commencement Video | Photo Gallery#wlulawgrad15 on social media

After the degrees were presented, Shelley Moore Capito, U.S. Senator for West Virginia, delivered this year’s commencement address. In her remarks, Sen. Capito recalled the previous W&L Law graduations she has attended, first in 2007 for her son Charles and then in 2011 for her son Moore and daughter-in-law Katherine. She noted that for those occasions, the commencement addresses were delivered by author John Grisham and reporter Nina Totenberg.

“Mr. Grisham brought the perspective of a writer of fiction; Ms. Totenberg nonfiction,” said Sen. Capito. “I’m here, as a United States Senator, with insight from the world of science fiction.”

Jokes about Congress aside, Sen. Capito said that her 14 years serving West Virginia have taught her many lessons, including the importance of community and the importance of lawyers. But her final thoughts were reserved for the subject of happiness. She remarked that the founding fathers set down the pursuit of happiness as one of our inalienable rights, though she cautioned the graduates not to define their happiness as a goal.

“Do not say I will be happy when I make partner, or I will be happy when I win my first case or when I am appointed as a federal judge,” said Sen. Capito. “No doubt those goals can contribute to your happiness, but they should not define it. Define your happiness as a state of mind as you pursue your goals.”

Following the Senator’s remarks, third-year class officers Bret Marfut and Rachel Kurzweil presented Sen. Capito with her very own walking stick, traditionally given to students at the awards ceremony preceding graduation. The walking stick, or cane, originated in the 1920’s as a way to distinguish third-year law students on campus. At that time, only two years of law school were required, and the walking stick served as a way to reward and honor those students who stayed for a third year.

Graduation festivities began Friday afternoon on the Lewis Hall lawn with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks. The John W. Davis Prize for Law, awarded to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to Tara L. MacNeill of Vestal, New York.

Four students graduated summa cum laude, 22 graduated magna cum laude, and 27 graduated cum laude. 17 students were named to Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society that encourages excellence in legal education. A list of honors and awards appears below.

In addition to achievements in the classroom, the Class of 2015 distinguished itself with its pro bono service to the law and the community. In all, the class completed 16,082 hours of service during this academic year, and 59 students were recognized during the awards ceremony for completing 100 hours or more of service.

One student in the Class of 2015 was honored by the Virginia State Bar for her service. Katherine Moss received this year’s Oliver White Hill Award for her extensive pro bono work in indigent criminal defense, and specifically indigent death penalty defense.

The Student Bar Association Teacher of the Year award was also presented at the awards ceremony. This year’s recipient was Prof. Beth Belmont, who teaches Evidence and directs the Community Legal Practice Clinic.

Special honors at Friday’s awards ceremony went to the following students:

Tara L. MacNeill was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Erin Leigh Shaver was awarded the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.

Paul M. Wiley won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.

Daniel R. Nappier won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.

Ryan Christopher Redd won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.

George MacDonald Mackie won the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.

Madeline Taylor Morcelle won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award given to an outstanding woman law student.

Donavan Keith Eason won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.

Babatunde Mohammed Cadmus and Hernandez D. Stroud shared in the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.

Jasmine Denise Brooks won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.

Cody Allan Phillips won the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.

David Lee Johnson won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.

Christian A. Pritchett won the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.

Terrence Anthony Austin and Katherine L. Moss shared in the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.

Paul M. Wiley won the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy.

Ryan Redd won the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.

Noelle Linda Quam won the Clinical Legal Education Association Award for excellence in clinical work.

Summa Cum Laude

Lauren Ashley Brown
David Lee Johnson
Tara L. MacNeill
Richard Garrett Rice

Magna Cum Laude

Jonathan Lee Caulder
Krista Consiglio
Sarah Elizabeth Curry
Joshua Mason Deal
Michael Glenn Finnell
Alexander D. Flachsbart
Elizabeth Jones Flachsbart
Michelle Ruth Gibson
Stephen Robert Halpin III
Daniel Scott Jacobs
Timothy Paul Kucinski
George MacDonald Mackie V
Brendan P. McHugh
Katherine L. Moss
Daniel R. Nappier
James F. Parker
Cody Allan Phillips
Christian A. Pritchett
Meg Elizabeth Sawyer
Krystal Brunner Swendsboe
Adam Charles Wendel
Paul M. Wiley

Cum Laude

Henry A. Andrews
Sarah Kathryn Atkinson
Terrence Anthony Austin
Trista Nicole Bishop-Watt
Tara Nicole Bradsher
Alexander James Bylund
John Carr Clarke Byrne II
Amanda Leigh Cecil
Jessica Drew Cohn
Brenna D. Duncan
Donavan Keith Eason
Michael Evans
Jacob Goldstein
Stephen Douglas Hall
Lindsey Katherine Jones
Risa Sarah Katz
Alison Elizabeth Leary
Austin Lee Lomax
Weston M. Love
Sarah Rose Murphy
Noelle Linda Quam
Brandon Evan Raphael
Katherine Curie Skilling
Andrew Talbot Squires
Lindy K. Stevens
Anne Elizabeth Wilkes
Zachary Alexander Wilkes

Order of the Coif

Lauren Ashley Brown
Jonathan Lee Caulder
Alexander D. Flachsbart
Elizabeth Jones Flachsbart
Stephen Robert Halpin III
Daniel Scott Jacobs
David Lee Johnson
Timothy Paul Kucinski
Tara L. MacNeill
Brendan P. McHugh
Katherine L. Moss
Daniel R. Nappier
Christian A. Pritchett
Richard Garrett Rice
Krystal Brunner Swendsboe
Adam Charles Wendel
Paul M. Wiley

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