The Northern Illinois University College of Law conferred 116 graduates with Juris Doctorate degrees at its Commencement Exercises May 25 at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center. Former Illinois Governor James Thompson gave the commencement address and received an honorary degree from the law school for his distinguished record of achievement in law and public service.
During his address, Governor Thompson detailed the importance of the formative experiences he had during his distinguished and highly-regarded legal and political career. He discussed his close associations with former and current NIU faculty, which he lauded as some of the finest he has known. He also recalled his efforts in helping NIU acquire the College of Law over 30 years ago by signing the legislation to finalize the deal.
Governor Thompson encouraged the new graduates to take pride in their degree and search for a career feeling secure in their foundation. "Your generation is no doubt the smartest and highly trained. If you take nothing else but passion for law and willingness to work hard, you will succeed," he said. He continued to challenge the students by emphasizing the unique advantages afforded them by graduating in the modern era of legal education, exhorting them to find opportunities to learn from their work, and sharpening their skills through pro bono and volunteer opportunities.
Cherilyn Murer, Chair of the NIU Board of Trustees and a 1978 alumna of the College of Law, along with Dean Jennifer Rosato presented Governor Thompson with the honorary Doctor of Law degree during the ceremony.
"His lifelong commitment to public service serves as a model for our community, especially our students," said Dean Rosato. "He also embodies the core values of the NIU College of Law, including public service, leadership, and professionalism."
Other highlights from the ceremony included inspirational messages from Dean Jennifer Rosato, Professor of the Year Dan Reynolds, and Class Speaker Jeffrey Zanchelli. A fitting tribute was also paid to Associate Dean Lenny Mandell, who is retiring after 32 years of service. Having served as coordinator of the law school's successful internal moot court competition since its inception in 1982, the competition was renamed as the Lenny B. Mandell Moot Court Competition. The ceremony concluded with a reception, where the graduates and their guests continued the celebration of their achievements.