Hundreds of family members and friends convened on Saturday, May 13, to celebrate the 2006 graduating class of Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. The law school awarded 201 201 juris doctorate degrees and nine master's of law degrees, and recognized numerous students for their activities and achievements as students.
Systemwide, Penn State graduated a total of 10,355 students -- approximately 594 with associate degrees, 8,154 baccalaureate degrees, 1,284 graduate degrees, 123 medical degrees and 200 juris doctorate degrees, between May 6 and 14. To see pictures from many of the commencement exercises held at University Park and many campuses throughout the Penn State system, visit http://live.psu.edu/still_life/2006_05_15_commencement2006/index.html online.
In his opening address, Joshua Parsons, Student Bar Association president and graduate of the class, thanked the law school faculty for continuing the long tradition of an open door policy, the staff for their everyday help, and family members who served as constant "support systems" over the past three years.
Parsons told the audience that practicing law is about three things -- "service, service and service. We see people when their whole world is crashing down," he said. "The essence of being a great lawyer is protecting those who cannot protect themselves."
D. Brooks Smith, a Federal Court of Appeals judge for the Third Circuit and graduate of the class of 1976, was the keynote speaker for the event. Smith told the class that "nothing should matter more to you in your life in the law than the human relationships you will develop in the course of your career."
Smith continued, "I am not talking about spouses or family. I leave such discussions to the likes of Dr. Phil, Oprah ... It is probably true that our culture is more fractured and contentious than it was when I graduated from this law school. There is plenty of evidence to make that case. We see it in partisan politics. We see it in the academy. And I have observed it as a trend in the practice of law and the work of the courts during my years in the profession. To suggest that people ought to be nicer to one another is, no doubt, a breathtakingly banal proposition to lay on a class of graduating law students. ... But I have to admit that it is integral to my suggestion that relationships really matter," Smith said.
In his conclusion, Smith told the graduates that their profession would lead them to many rewards, "material and otherwise. But, all we really have is one another. Those relationships we forge as we make our way through life. I hope that the professional and workplace relationships you develop will nourish and sustain you. I hope they will contribute to fuller, richer professional lives for each of you. I hope they will make you better lawyers," he said.
Smith holds a seat on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and hears appeals from federal cases arising in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Smith was nominated to his current position by President George W. Bush in September 2001 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 31, 2002.
Prior to his appointment to the Third Circuit, Smith spent 14 years as a U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Nominated to the seat by President Ronald Reagan in October 1988, Smith was one of the youngest federal judges in the country when he was appointed to the position later that year. From February 2001 until his departure in 2002, he served as chief judge for the district.