Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

School of Law Honors Graduates at 2016 Commencement Ceremony

The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 161st commencement on Saturday, May 7, awarding 93 juris doctor degrees.

The rainy weather that pestered Lexington all week cleared off to brilliant blue skies and a crisp spring morning for the commencement ceremony, which began with an official welcome and remarks from President Ken Ruscio. He reminded the graduating students that W&L seeks to produce not just attorneys, but a particular kind of attorney.

Related: Photo Gallery | Event Video

“I believe that the men and women who graduate from this institution are particular kinds of people,” said Ruscio. “People who understand that being a lawyer is so much more than a set of technical skills, more than a trade, more than a job. It is an ethic and carries with it a set of values.”

Prof. Brant Hellwig, Dean of the Law School, followed President Ruscio to the podium. He congratulated the students on their achievement and also thanked them for their many contributions to the life of the school, both inside and outside the classroom.

“Our academic community thrives on the energy and the intellectual curiosity of our students, and we are grateful for your significant contributions on that front,” said Hellwig. He went on to encourage students to be open to the professional opportunities that will present themselves, even if they are unconventional.

“There is no one defined successful career path to pursue,” said Hellwig. “Success will mean finding a positon that allows you to utilize your particular talents in a way that you find fulfilling or rewarding.”

The graduates were then awarded their degrees.

After the degrees were presented, Reggie Aggarwal, a 1994 graduate of W&L Law and founder and CEO of event management company Cvent, delivered this year’s commencement address. In his remarks, Aggarwal recounted both the highs and the lows of his journey from taking a two-person startup to a 2000-person company with customers across the globe.

Aggarwal shared a number lessons with the graduates about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, including being persistent and consistent in the face of failure. He also extolled the importance of people, which he calls the DNA of his company.

“Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, said a CEO can focus on one of three things: strategy, customers, or people,” said Aggarwal. “I’ve chosen people.” Aggarwal personally interviewed 700 of Cvent’s first 800 employees and says he spends 60 percent of his time on his workforce.

“At the end of the day there are a thousand competitors across the globe against Cvent. How did we become number one? It’s simple. We had the best team and the best people.”

Aggarwal said that among the things he learned at W&L was the importance of a caring community, and he has tried to create that same sense of community and trust at Cvent. He urged the graduates to do the same thing wherever they go and in whatever position they hold.

“Be an ‘intrapreneuer’,” he said, “Be an entrepreneur within an organization. That means that you take responsibility, you take risk, and you can make an impact and believe that organization is yours even though you may not be the founder…. I can promise you the journey will be more fun, it will be more interesting, and it will be more rewarding.”

Following the Aggarwal’s remarks, third-year class officers Morgan Fiander and Amanda Fisher presented him with his 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 Christina Tacoronti of Fayetteville, Georgia.

Two students graduated summa cum laude, 15 graduated magna cum laude, and 15 graduated cum laude. Nine 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.

The Student Bar Association Teacher of the Year award was also presented at the awards ceremony. This year’s recipient was Prof. David Millon, who teaches courses in the area of corporate law.

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

Christina Lynne Tacoronti was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Zachary James Clifton Watkins was awarded the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.

Emelia N. Hall won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.

Paul Kent Keith won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.

Vincent Louise Smith won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.

Aria Bianca Maria Allan and Julianne Catherine Freeman shared in the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.

Emily Elaine Tichenor won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award given to an outstanding woman law student.

Christopher Quinn Adams won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.

Hector Leonardo DeJesus Alvarez and Ariel S. Wossene shared in the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.

Jennifer Lynn Harrington won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.

Kelton Patrick Frye won the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.

Paul C. Judge won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.

Hollie A. Floberg and Christina Lynne Tacoronti shared in the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.

James A. Cooper and Kirby Zoe Kreider shared in the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.

Loren K. Peck won the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy.

Julian Harf won the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.

Alexandra L. Klein won the Clinical Legal Education Association Award for excellence in clinical work.

Summa Cum Laude                        

  • Elaine D. McCafferty
  • Christina Lynne Tacoronti   

Magna Cum Laude                         

  • Christopher Quinn Adams
  • Aria Bianca Maria Allan
  • Hunter Amadeus Bayliss
  • Jennifer Lee Commander
  • Alyson Michelle Cox
  • Kelton Patrick Frye
  • Krista Marie Haab
  • Paul C. Judge
  • Kerriann Elise Laubach
  • Loren K. Peck
  • Charlotte Weatherford Rhodes
  • Christina Marie Rossi
  • Vincent Louis Smith
  • Emily Elaine Tichenor
  • Brooke Alexandra Weedon

Cum laude         

  • Brandon Scott Allred
  • John Zachary Balasko
  • Boris Bindman
  • Brittany Agnes Dunn-Pirio
  • Alice Meredyth Eckel
  • Hollie A. Floberg
  • Kyle R. Fontaine
  • Julianne Catherine Freeman
  • Emelia N. Hall
  • Margaret Elizabeth Hayes
  • Paul Kent Keith
  • Kirby Zoe Kreider
  • Benjamin Alexander Kussman
  • Claire Linda Leonard
  • Alexander R. Miltenberger

Order of the Coif            

  • Jennifer Lee Commander
  • Alyson Michelle Cox
  • Krista Marie Haab
  • Paul C. Judge
  • Elaine D. McCafferty
  • Charlotte Weatherford Rhodes
  • Christina Marie Rossi
  • Christina Lynne Tacoronti
  • Emily Elaine Tichenor

If you know any W&L alumni who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.