Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Spring Commencement on May 18 featured one of the most diverse group of graduates in the school’s proud history.
The ceremony, at Copley Symphony Hall in downtown San Diego, was both joyous and energetic – with a standing room only group of family and friends filling the 2,200 seat hall to cheer on the graduates.
And for the graduates – it was a day of “dreams come true.”
“Dreams really do come true,” said Nicole Heffel, a Navy veteran. “Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to be a lawyer.”
“I want to thank TJSL for helping me fulfill my dream of becoming a lawyer,” said Najmah Brown, who will start a new position soon as a lawyer at the Al Jazeera USA network.
My dreams came true,” said graduate Nastaran Parvizi. “Ever since I came to the U.S. from Sweden seven years ago I’ve been waiting for this day and it feels amazing!”
“Finally! I’m so excited! I finally get to wear a cap and gown,” said Jennifer McCollough a former Navy helicopter pilot, who will begin a clerkship with Federal Judge John D. Love in Texas after graduation. “I love my school!” she added.
“This is icing on the cake after four years of hard work,” said Bardia Pourfallah. “This is the end of one chapter and the start of another. From the academic to the professional.”
Heading a graduation procession for the final time in his illustrious career was TJSL Dean Rudy Hasl, who is stepping down on June 30 after being the longest serving law school dean in America – 32 years at four different law schools.
The ceremony began with a stirring version of the Star-Spangled Banner, sung by two of the graduates, Kevin Kampschror and Sarah Felong.
Then Dean Hasl welcomed the 210 juris doctor graduates to what he called a “noble and learned profession.” He asked the graduates to “find your opportunity for service and leadership while fervently practicing justice and compassion in a world that so desperately needs your services.”
Dean Hasl received an honorary degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and was also given the honor of delivering the commencement address for, as Board of Trustees Chairman Randy Jones put it, “his immense contribution to the law school.”
“I have been privileged to shape the future direction of an institution – especially in challenging times,” said Dean Hasl. “We are seeing changes in the way legal services are delivered. And you are more practice-ready than earlier classes. The only limitations on your accomplishments are those you place on yourselves.”
After a heartfelt and sincere thank you to his family for the “sacrifices they all made to make possible my career,” the Dean said, “Thank you and Godspeed. I am proud to join you today as a graduate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law.”
Dean Hasl was visibly moved by the standing ovation that followed his remarks.
“Today, we reflect on how we got here. Today we give thanks, and look to the future,” said class Valedictorian Walter Araujo, who was the Editor in Chief of the Thomas Jefferson Law Review in his third year. “We dedicated hundreds of hours developing the skills for our profession. The professors are fantastic. They worked us. Even scared us and sometimes bored us – but not to death.”
After a moving thank you to his family and friends for their support, Araujo concluded by borrowing a phrase from Dr. Seuss in Oh the places you Go!: “You have new brains and new JDs and the opportunity to do so many great things.”
As he welcomed the new graduates into the TJSL Alumni Association, Vice-President Jeremy Evans ’11 imparted this advice: “Positivity will bring your success. Be positive and employers will see that.”
“It’s surreal to look out and see both my Los Angeles and San Diego families and both of my churches,” said graduate Noél Heard, who may have had the largest and loudest cheering section. “It’s just awesome to see all the people who got me here. I’m ecstatic,” Heard added, no doubt expressing the same sentiments that so many of her fellow classmates felt upon graduation.
In addition to the juris doctor graduates, 24 Master of Laws and Masters of Science of Law candidates received their diplomas, as part of TJSL’s advanced degree program.
After the ceremony, all graduates and their guests were invited to TJSL for an open house and reception.