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YLS Class of 2002 Honored at Commencement

"Line up at the 'Law' sign in Cross Campus," was the first instruction for all graduating students for the 2002 Yale Law School Commencement. And right on time Monday morning, May 27, students began to gather, garbed in black robes and distinguished by two-toned, purple-blue hoods.

From the Law School, 202 students expected to receive the JD, twenty-six the LLM, five the MSL, and four the JSD: 237 individual routes taken to reach that "Law" sign.

Even the week preceding commencement had varying qualities for different students. Riva Koshaba '02 had just completed a frenzied week, taking her last exam on the final day, after staying up until 2:00 a.m. to finish her SAW. And though she found the idea of being all done "a little weird," she said she was "starting to really appreciate the Law School and think of it as something that will last throughout my life." Ian Solomon '02 had completed his writing projects the term before, leaving himself time to relax, do some work on his house, and prepare for the birth of his first child. He declared himself "happy to be done," though he was chagrined at the close of his "three-year break from working."

The call came to start marching, and the YLS flag-bearer led a line of faculty and students that stretched the width of Cross Campus. They headed to the main University Commencement on Old Campus. There, seated amidst thousands of fellow Yale graduates and thousands more spectators, the YLS contingent watched as President Richard C. Levin officially conferred degrees upon students from Yale College, the School of Medicine, the Divinity School, and others. Law School grads would have to wait until the official voting of degrees by the YLS faculty on June 5, so they received only a promise from Levin that "I shall confer upon you the degree."

After the University ceremony, it was into another line. This time, YLS graduates gathered in the Law School's main hallway as their families and friends took seats in the Law School Courtyard. The graduates marched in to the music of the Brass Ring Quintet, and sat in attentive rows where on other days they might have lounged on a bench or played Wiffle Ball.

Dean Anthony T. Kronman began the ceremonies and introduced Robert L. Carter, a district judge in the Southern District of New York and a former general counsel for the NAACP, who was a part of the team that argued Brown v. Board of Education. Carter, who had just received a Yale honorary degree, urged YLS graduate to maintain their commitment to social justice.

Then the graduating students were called up one by one by degree and paraded across the stage to reach Dean Kronman. Jean Koh Peters, clinical professor of law, was the faculty member chosen by the class to give the Commencement Address. Her speech touched on many of the common memories of the class, particularly mentioning the changes that took place during this class's term in New Haven. The YLS physical plant was improved, a new millennium began, and a new president took office. And most tragically, she noted, the date September 11 changed from a "day in early fall of no note" to a day of infamy.

Koh Peters ran through a list of some of the special activities that the graduates had participated in. Ian Solomon says that some of his best memories revolved around an item quickly invoked by Koh Peters: the Court Jesters, an acting troupe that Solomon worked with all three years, putting on productions of Shakespeare and "A Few Good Men."

Peters also mentioned the Reach the Beach Relay, a running race that Kevin Keenan '02 recalled fondly. Keenan named some of the other events that constituted his core memories of YLS: He was delighted when he saw a year of hard work bound up in a printed copy of the Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal, of which he was a co-editor-in-chief. He recalled his writing assignments as challenging but rewarding. He adds, "I was thrilled, just thrilled, with YLS."

Dean Kronman picked up on the theme of change and the events of September 11 in his address. He argued that the disaster had foregrounded "a sense of the value and dignity of the civilization that came under attack that morning, and of the central place of law in that civilization." He called on the graduating class to be defenders of that "civilization of laws," and added, "knowing you as I do, I have not the slightest doubt you will rise to the challenge." (To read Dean Kronman's full speech, follow this link.)

Alexandra Schimmer '02 called Kronman's remarks "the perfect words to end not just law school but this year after September 11.... It was the most moving part of the day." She said that as a graduating law student, thinking about how to make a difference, Kronman's words provided a "charge."

Then the ceremony was over, and it was on to champagne toasts, a banquet in the dining hall, and the many individual parties and dinners hosted by graduates.

Over the coming years, the Class of 2002 will spread around the globe, pursuing multitudinous career paths: Riva Koshaba will work in a private practice in Washington, D.C.; Ian Solomon will work for a consulting firm then clerk for a judge and is also his class's newly elected secretary; Kevin Keenan is going to a fellowship in non-profit law at the Vera Institute of Justice; and Alexandra Schimmer will clerk for a federal district judge in New York. But for a day they all shared this commencement and the new appellation YLS grad--or, at least, soon-shall-be YLS grad.