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Monday, May 23, 2011
229 Degree Candidates Honored Before Downpour Cuts Commencement Ceremonies Short -- VIDEO and PHOTOS
They were in the equivalent of the seventh inning shortly before 2 p.m. Monday when 229 Yale Law School degree candidates saw their commencement ceremonies called on account of rain. Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law Guido Calabresi ’58 was just minutes in to his commencement speech when the skies opened up, drenching students, family, and faculty members present in the Law School courtyard.
“I cannot have people suffer through this,” said Calabresi, a senior judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the graduates’ special choice for commencement speaker. “I’m going to make a choice that says, ‘I love you,’ and I will not speak any longer today.”
It had remained dry until that point, after a few brief drizzles when the students processed in at noontime.
Yale Law School Dean Robert Post ’77 had welcomed those assembled, praising the achievements of the students and recognizing the efforts of families, friends, and Yale Law faculty and staff who “nourished and sacrificed, supported and sustained” to make the day possible.
He spoke of the “daunting world” the graduates would face outside the “calm courtyard” in which they now gathered.
“From WikiLeaks to the radiation leaks in Japan, from the collapse of the American housing market to the collapse of housing in Haitian earthquakes, from the oily tides of Deepwater Horizon to the Pakistani floods…the world is wobbling on its axis, spinning out inexorable and unfathomable challenges,” he said before asking, “How could we possibly have prepared you for the uncertain challenges that await you?”
“I hope we have done so,” he went on, “by giving you three gifts: knowledge, vision, and confidence.”
Because of those gifts, Dean Post said, the students are capable of great things, but with that capacity comes great responsibility.
“We are confident that you will be faithful fiduciaries of this responsibility because you have already accomplished dazzling feats.”
Next to address the graduates were Alfred M. Rankin Professor of Law Drew Days ’66 and Sterling Professor of Law Owen Fiss, who are both retiring this year—Days, after 30 years on the Yale Law School faculty and Fiss, after 37.
Professor Days shared a personal reflection on the twists and turns of fate that led him from Yale Law School, to marriage and the Peace Corps, to a high-level position in the Justice Department, to the Yale Law faculty, to Solicitor General of the United States, and back to the Yale Law faculty.
Professor Fiss spoke of his love for Yale Law School and a faculty that is “crazy in a good sense: intellectually restless, unwilling to accept any conventional accounts of the law, boldly and defiantly crossing all disciplinary boundaries, and determined to push and push the law, sometimes even beyond all sensible limits.” He recounted his answer to the student who, during a happy hour at Mory’s last semester, asked him, “Professor Fiss, what is your proudest achievement?” “You,” he had responded. He repeated that to the 229 graduating students. “Yes, you are my proudest achievement.”
The announcement of graduate degree candidates by Associate Dean Toni Davis ’92 LLM followed—26 Master of Laws (LL.M.), 6 Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.), and 1 Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.). Due to the large number of J.D. degrees (196) and with the rain threatening, those announcements were postponed and done later inside the building by Associate Dean Sharon Brooks ’00. The students will officially receive their degrees when the Law School faculty votes on June 1.
Pre-empted in addition to Judge Calabresi was former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree earlier in the day and was scheduled to address the graduates. A surprise appearance by Monty the therapy dog, whose services were enlisted in a pilot program by the Law Library this year, was also a washout.