Governor Deval Patrick, whose leadership was essential in creating the UMass School of Law at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, was awarded the Chancellor's Medal for outstanding service to the Commonwealth and delivered the keynote address at the law school's Commencement Exercises today at the Main Auditorium on the main UMass Dartmouth campus.
"UMass Law has clearly found its footing on the path to success, guided by experienced leadership and dedicated faculty and diverse and civic minded student body and, significantly, a mission to advance justice," said Governor Patrick in his address to the Class of 2014. "When you advance justice, you enable for others the American Dream."
The Governor's appearance at the Law School caps eight years of supporting UMass Dartmouth, beginning with his regional inauguration event held at the Campus Center. Governor Patrick's support has been instrumental in the $48 million renovation of the Claire T. Carney Library, development of the Massachusetts Accelerator for Biomanufacturing in Fall River, and recent approval of a $55 million academic building for the main campus.
"This is also our time as a university community to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be here, in a place and among people devoted to learning... devoted to exploring ideas...devoted to developing talents and skills...devoted to getting the most out of our human potential.....and devoted to justice," said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman. "Never forget that by graduating from UMass Law, the Commonwealth's first and only public law school, you are part of history. Now, go pursue justice. Go make history."
University of Massachusetts President Robert L. Caret and UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Henry M. Thomas III offered remarks to the Class of 2014.
"So much about this school is special. So much about the faculty, staff, and students who bring it to life is special. So much about this school feels right. A law school that emphasizes excellence and diversity, and an unshakeable commitment to the community and the Commonwealth," said President Caret. "We now charge you with the responsibility to take this important mission, this important role forward and bring it to life. The pursuit of justice is now in your hands and we know you are ready."
"Certainly we would not be here this morning at the public law school if Governor Deval Patrick had not said some seven years ago, 'Together We Can.' Thank you Governor -- you have been our friend and ally," said Chairman Thomas. "Graduates, congratulations on what you have accomplished. Do good work, as I know you will, and may all your travels that lie ahead of you be good ones."
UMass Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek also offered remarks to the Class of 2014. Since joining UMass Law in July 2012, Dean Bilek has focused on expanding the role of the school in the community with increased pro bono hours, an increased commitment to public service by the students and an expansion of clinic opportunities.
"One of the wonderful things about UMass Law is that we are a family. We all know each other. And that goes for the students, the faculty, the staff, and the alumni. We have nearly 80 individual success stories to celebrate today," said UMass Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek. "We also have the success represented by UMass Law's unquenchable desire to pursue justice. And we have the success represented in the Commonwealth's belief that those with the desire, talent, and intellect to pursue the noble profession of law, should have the opportunity to do so. And governor, let me say on behalf of UMass Law -- thank you for making it all possible."
Louis D'Amarino '14 was chosen as the Student Commencement Speaker to address his fellow graduates at today's ceremony. After four years as a legislative aide to a New York State county legislator, Louis became a full-time law student at our School of Law. Not only has Louis excelled academically: he has also been a remarkable student leader on many fronts, culminating in his election as President of the Student Bar Association during his third year.
"I believe that the closeness of our class is one of the main reasons why UMass School of Law has been so successful in recent years. The transformation of the law school occurred right before our own eyes," said Mr. D'Amarino. "During our time here our school has received a lot of recognition. Our faculty and administration have received various accolades and spoke at conferences throughout the United States. As the school has emerged onto the national scene, our classmates have as well. Some of the things that our classmates achieved on the national stage are simply amazing for a law school of only four years."
Since opening, the school has:
-- Earned provisional approval from the American Bar Association.
-- Frozen tuition for three years.
-- Implemented a cutting edge curriculum focused on preparation for the profession, requiring all students to complete 15 credit hours of legal skills training, including a clinic or internship.
-- Developed a program of professional development, requiring all students to do 30 hours of pro bono work, yielding more than 9100 student pro bono hours by 190 students at more than 72 organizations in six states and two countries in AY 2012-13 and AY 2013-14 to date.
-- Became one of just 20 law schools in the country to require a clinic or internship of its students.
-- Recruited a top-flight faculty, including Dean Mary Lu Bilek who was recently named as one of the "Top Women in Law" by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
-- Hosted U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
-- Been cited as one of the top five regional law schools for black students.
-- Increased applications in each of the last two years and steadily improved the academic indicators of the entering classes.
UMass Law, the only public law school in Massachusetts, was established in 2010 to provide a high quality, affordable legal education focused on creating justice-centered lawyers. UMass Law is especially committed to increasing the diversity of those who practice law in the Commonwealth and encouraging students to become professionally engaged in their community through clinics and internships while they study.