Lexington, VA • Monday, May 15, 2006
The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 151st commencement exercises on Saturday, May 12 as 128 J.D. degrees and two LL.M degrees were awarded. In addition to its many academic and public service achievements, this class is notable for its ethnic and geographic diversity. 16 percent of the students in this year's graduating class are ethnic minorities, and graduates represent 29 U.S. states and 7 foreign countries.
The career choices of the graduating class are varied as well. 43 percent of the class will join a law firm after graduation, and 20 students will go on to post-graduate judicial clerkships, 10 at the federal level and 10 at the state level. The remaining students will work in government, public interest, academic, business or military jobs.
Graduation festivities began Friday evening on the Lewis Hall lawn with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks, followed by music and fireworks co-sponsored by the School of Law and the Alumni Association. A list of students receiving special honors at this ceremony can be found below.
Also receiving special recognition at the awards ceremony was John Boardman. Boardman received an undergraduate degree from the University in 1951 and earned a scholarship to attend the School of Law. But his plans were interrupted by the Korean War, and after his service in the military, he married, had children, and chose to work for his father-in-law’s furniture company. After retiring from a long and successful career as President/CEO of Sam Moore Furniture, Boardman returned to the Law School, successfully completing 68 credit hours of coursework. For his devotion to learning throughout a lifetime and the numerous contributions to the life of the Washington and Lee University School of Law community, Boardman was awarded a citation and the traditional walking stick.
The commencement ceremony began at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday with an opening invocation by the Reverend Stephen Mealor, Law Class of 2006, and with an official welcome from Acting President Harlan Beckley. President Beckley paid tribute to Dean David Partlett, who is departing the School of Law to become Dean of the law school at Emory University, noting his many accomplishments as dean including the establishment of several international legal programs and fundraising success that has enabled physical improvements in Lewis Hall.
Before presenting the graduates with their degrees, Dean Partlett thanked the W&L community, especially the students, for making his six years at the School of Law so productive and enjoyable. “With age comes cynicism,” said Partlett, “but the students of the School of Law have been a wonderful antidote to that.” 130 degrees were then awarded to a class comprised of 76 men and 54 women.
Washington and Lee University conferred honorary Doctor of Laws degrees on Thomas R. Shepherd and Nancy H. Shepherd for their visionary commitments to social justice, their dedication to public service, and their remarkable generosity. The Shepherds are well-known to the University through the Shepherd Program. More recently, they took the lead in funding the Law School's Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), which helps relieve the debt obligations of recent graduates who have chosen to enter low-paying public interest legal careers.
This year’s commencement address was delivered by Dr. Larry J. Sabato, the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics and Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Explaining the presence of a political analyst at a law school graduation, Sabato noted that well over 200 members of Congress are lawyers as well. He also encouraged the students to get involved with politics at any level. “The legal profession gives you the status to be heard,” said Sabato. “It also gives you the responsibility to be heard.”
Special honors at Friday’s awards ceremony went to the following students:
- Steven Robert Ruby was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average. Ruby graduated summa cum laude and was also elected to Order of the Coif.
- Sara Ashley Allenson won the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.
- Tamara Lyn Graham won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy. Graham graduated magna cum laude, and was elected to Order of the Coif.
- Travis Nathan Turner won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law and the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law. Turner graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Order of the Coif.
- Lauren Elizabeth Troxclair won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.
- Erica Jean Richards won the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law and graduated magna cum laude.
- Jillian Lee DiLaura won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award, given to an outstanding woman law student.
- Katherine Ann Tritschler won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.
- Laura Grace Hastay won the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community and graduated cum laude.
- Travis Christopher Barham won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law. Barham graduated summa cum laude and was also elected to Order of the Coif.
- Ryan Allen Corle and Jessica Mary Tanner won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law. Corle graduated summa cum laude and was also elected to Order of the Coif. Tanner graduated cum laude.
- Andrew Fessenden Dana won the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law and graduated magna cum laude.
- Taryn Lynn Koball won the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence and graduated cum laude. This was the inaugural presentation of the Damewood Award, which was established by Tom Damewood ‘51A, ‘53L, who practiced law in Charleston, West Virginia for many years. Mr. Damewood believes that Evidence is the most important subject taught in the School of Law, in that the principles of any field of law can be applied only to facts, and a court or other tribunal recognizes as facts only those matters established before it according to the Rules of Evidence. Mr. Damewood was on hand at the 2006 Awards Ceremony to present the award.