Feature Stories Campus Events

School of Law Honors Graduates at 2019 Commencement Ceremony

The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 164th commencement on Friday, May 10, awarding 109 juris doctor degrees.

The Colonnade lawn again played host to the ceremony, which began with an official welcome and remarks from President Will Dudley. He recounted the history of the law school’s founding and its evolution on campus.

“The tradition of excellence at Washington and Lee law school stretches back over 150 years,” said Dudley. “But it also aspires ever forward in keeping with our moto non incautus futuri—not unmindful of the future. You have all benefited from this tradition, and you will all contribute to this tradition throughout the course of your careers.”

Related: Event Video and Image Gallery

Prof. Brant Hellwig, Dean of the Law School, followed President Dudley 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. He then discussed what it means that the law school includes in its mission statement a desire to produce “honorable practitioners of law.”

“Regardless of the career path you pursue, conducting yourself in an honorable manner is pivotal to having an enjoyable and meaningful career,” he said. “And while maintaining high professional standards likely will lead to a more accomplished career over the long-term, perhaps the greatest benefit from doing so is subjective – measured in the personal satisfaction you will take from practicing law in a laudable manner, even if no one actually lauds you for it.”

The graduates were then awarded their degrees.

After the degrees were presented, Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University. He then delivered an impassioned commencement address in which he described the nation’s legacy of racial inequality, from slavery through the current failings of the criminal justice system. But rather than dwell on problems, Stevenson offered the members of the Law Class of 2019 a path to follow in order to fulfill their obligation to “do justice.”

“Without lawyers who actually think about what justice requires, who take steps to achieve justice, we will not survive as a society governed by the rule of law,” said Stevenson.

During his talk, Stevenson asked the graduates to get “proximate” with the poor, the neglected, and the suffering in order to understand what justice requires. He urged them to help rewrite the narratives of fear and anger that undermine the rule of law and allow us to see some people as less than human. He told them to remain hopeful because “hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” And he cautioned them that this path requires us to “do the uncomfortable things that advance justice.”

Stevenson’s philosophy has been born out through is work with EJI, where he has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 125 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.

He concluded his remarks by saying, “I think you honor this University when you do justice, even though there may be times when it is difficult. You have honored me by inviting me to be a part of this celebration. I want to honor you by telling you that when you stand for justice…there is a justice quotient in the world that celebrates your very act. Thank you for doing that.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Following Stevenson’s remarks, third-year class officers Lauren Bond and Kiersten Holms presented Stevenson 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 Thursday afternoon in Evans Hall 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 Joseph Gregory DuChane of Fredericksburg, VA.

One student graduated summa cum laude, 15 graduated magna cum laude, and 14 graduated cum laude. 11 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 and Staff Member of the Year award were also presented at the awards ceremony. Prof. Russ Miller was named Teacher of the Year, and Trenya Mason, assistant dean for student affairs at the law school, won the staff award.

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

Joseph Gregory DuChane was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Michael Shane Brown and Caroline Eugenie Diemer shared in the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.

Stefani Christine Evans won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.

Jacqueline Marie Fitch won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.

Daniele Marina San Roman won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.

Sally Elise Harper and Alexis Taylor Narducci shared in the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.

Madison Claire Flowers won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award given to an outstanding woman law student.

Alex Weill Shoaf won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.

Stefani Christine Evans, Caitlin Ventry-Marie Peterson, and Danielle Alexandra Phillips shared in the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.

Jacqueline Marie Keenan won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.

Madison Claire Flowers won the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.

Robert Lewis Wilson III won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.

Timothy Paul Strother won the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.

Zachary Tate Crawford-Pechukas and Caden William Hayes shared in the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.

Danielle Alexandra Phillips won the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Oral Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy.

Quentin Abraham Stephen Becker won the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.

Cara Leigh Brown won the Clinical Legal Education Association Award for excellence in clinical work.

Zachary Tate Crawford-Pechukas won the Criminal Law Award for excellence in the study of criminal law

Paige-Elizabeth Edith Avery and Kiersten Elizabeth Holms shared in the Administrative Law Award for excellence in the study of administrative law.

Alexa Rae Shockley Campbell wonthe Business Law Award for excellence in the study of business law.

Danielle Joan Novelly won the Washington and Lee School of Law Women’s Law Award.

Summa Cum Laude

  • Joseph Gregory DuChane

Magna Cum Laude

  • Paige-Elizabeth Edith Avery
  • Cole Thomas Bollman
  • Cody Matthew Bowen
  • William Richard Carpenter
  • Zachary Tate Crawford-Pechukas
  • Kelly Ann Cunningham
  • Jacqueline Marie Fitch
  • Mary Nobles Hancock
  • Sally Elise Harper
  • Kiersten Elizabeth Holms
  • Ian Joseph McElhaney
  • Danielle Joan Novelly
  • Pierce Edward Rigney
  • Alexa Rae Shockley Campbell
  • Malory Elizabeth Thelen

Cum Laude

  • Quentin Abraham Stephen Becker
  • Kathryn Mary Bennett
  • Lauren Elizabeth Bennett
  • Matthew Philip Alevizatos Chriss
  • Madison Claire Flowers
  • Maya Harkness Ginga
  • Diane McDonald Gremillion
  • Caden William Hayes
  • Spence McKay Howden
  • Benton Thomas Morton
  • Andrew Teddy Mossman
  • Carroll Bennett Neale
  • Daniele Marina San Román
  • Timothy Paul Strother

Order of the Coif

  • Paige-Elizabeth Edith Avery
  • Cole Thomas Bollman
  • Cody Matthew Bowen
  • Zachary Tate Crawford-Pechukas
  • Joseph Gregory DuChane
  • Jacqueline Marie Fitch
  • Sally Elise Harper
  • Kiersten Elizabeth Holms
  • Ian Joseph McElhaney
  • Pierce Edward Rigney
  • Malory Elizabeth Thelen