UCLA School of Law celebrated its 67th commencement on May 11, sending forth the Class of 2018 with pomp, circumstance and rousing speeches by students and dignitaries. More than 2,000 family, friends, faculty, colleagues and classmates attended the event, which took place on UCLA’s Dickson Court.
The festivities honored 518 graduates — 323 students who received juris doctor degrees (J.D.) and 195 students who earned master of law degrees (LL.M.).
UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block delivered the commencement address in place of U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Cal.), who was unable to attend.
“Lawyers are the guardians of our legal framework, a framework that is both durable but sometimes rather fragile, and you will be there to protect it,” Block said. “Certainly, the highest value of our legal system, its most sacred promise, is equal justice under the law. You’re about to become defenders of that promise.”
Following a procession of faculty and graduates under gray skies and a stirring presentation of the national anthem by 2018 graduate Angela Reid, Jennifer L. Mnookin, UCLA Law’s Dean and David G. Price and Dallas P. Price Professor of Law, welcomed attendees.
Mnookin reminded graduates that while their law degrees represent the wealth of skills and knowledge that they have acquired, putting their gifts to use also will require “a generosity of spirit” — a characteristic that, she said, they have shown they already possess.
“As able advocates, you absolutely should fight passionately for what you believe in,” she said. “But I hope that you do remember to believe in the humanity of others, even those with whom you may vehemently disagree.”
Gina Hong, speaking on behalf of the J.D. graduates, repeated the day’s common sentiment, that lawyers bear a special responsibility in such strained social and political times, and that UCLA Law prepared her and her classmates to take action.
“We learned how to put other people’s problems before our own and do everything that we can to solve those problems,” she said. “In a world where injustice and violence are everywhere … while kindness and courageous love seem rare, the hundreds of us that walk this stage today have committed to the difficult work of caring for others.”
The Class of 2018’s J.D. graduates were 53 percent female and ranged in age from 20 to 37. Approximately 37 percent identified as Hispanic, African-American, Asian or Native American. Six percent of the J.D. graduates already held an advanced degree. LL.M. graduates, all of whom were attorneys before pursuing their advanced degrees at UCLA Law, came from 32 countries, were 51 percent female, and ranged in age from 20 to 54.
LL.M. graduate Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane spoke with gratitude of being raised in South Africa by several strong women and of then learning civil rights law from UCLA Law distinguished professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, working with assistant professor E. Tendayi Achiume and sharing pride in seeing professor Cheryl Harris win the law school’s highest teaching honor in 2018, the Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching.
UCLA Law student body president Brianne Holland-Stergar introduced Patrick Goodman, whom the graduating students had elected Professor of the Year. Goodman has been a lecturer in law at UCLA Law since 2001, and he has received the honor seven times.
Third-year class president Benjamin Ryzak shared emcee duties for the afternoon, imploring his fellow graduates to always take care of themselves, take care of others and keep things in perspective. These were virtues that, he said, he learned from his first-year legal research and writing professor, Skye Donald, who died of cancer in October 2016.
Ryzak concluded by quoting from one of Donald’s last e-mails to her students: “If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, or that you have no idea what you’re doing, or that you’re frustrated, I’m fine with that, and you should be, too. It’s just paper and words. Don’t let it loom larger than that in your mind. Please try to enjoy the process, toy with it, explore.”