May 7, 2021
GRADUATES have already been seated.
FACULTY have already been seated.
(Cue pre-recorded brief fanfare music.)
Welcome to the 2021 Chase College of Law Commencement Exercises.
Please stand for the flag processional beginning today’s ceremony.
(Presidential Ambassadors and Chase college marshals process in the three flags and two Chase College of Law banners. Pre-recorded processional music plays while flags are placed on stage.)
(Once the banners are placed, lower processional music volume for the announcement of the platform party.)
You may be seated. Please join me in welcoming the platform party to the arena stage.
(Processional music volume back to normal volume.)
PLATFORM PARTY processes and remains standing at their places.
(Grand Marshal Jennifer Kinsley walks up on the Stage Right side of the platform. She stands left of the podium as the other members of the platform party process to their assigned seats, where they remain standing.)
(All have remained standing at their places; processional music ends)
(Grand Marshal Kinsley places mace in holder and moves to seat)
Would you please rise for our national anthem led by Blair Lamb, a May 2021 graduate from NKU’s School of the Arts?
NATIONAL ANTHEM.................................................... Vocal Soloist
(Vocal soloist leaves stage.)
WELCOME AND RECOGNITION OF FACULTY, STAFF AND PLATFORM PARTY
Please welcome Dr. Ande Durojaiye, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs of Northern Kentucky University.
(Dr. Durojaiye assumes the podium)
To our accomplished faculty in attendance, to the university officials appearing with me on the stage, to our distinguished invited guests, and most of all, to the families and friends of the Classes of 2020 and 2021, I extend my welcome to the Commencement for the Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law.
The Chase College of Law is fortunate to have both outstanding faculty members who daily demonstrate their commitment to the mission of the university through their teaching, research, and service as well as dedicated staff who work tirelessly to support and guide our students, from admission through career opportunities.
It is my distinct pleasure to ask all faculty and staff in the Salmon P. Chase College of Law to stand and be recognized.
(Faculty and staff stand. Following applause they are seated at a signal from
At this time it is my great pleasure to introduce the distinguished members of the platform party. I will ask them to stand as I call their names, and remain standing. Please hold your applause until all have been introduced.
(Each person should rise and remain standing until all the platform dignitaries have been acknowledged.)
Dr. Ashish Vaidya, President of Northern Kentucky University;
Ms. Judith Daar, Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold Dean of Chase College of Law;
Representing the NKU Board of Regents: Regent Dennis Repenning;
The Honorable Michelle Keller, Justice of the Supreme Court of Kentucky;
The Honorable Robert Conley, Justice of the Supreme Court of Kentucky;
Professor Jennifer Kinsley, Grand Marshal;
Professor John Bickers;
Mr. Randy Blankenship, Chair of the Chase Alumni Council;
Mr. David MacKnight, Associate Dean for Advancement.
Please join me in recognizing our platform party today.
(Applause. Dr. Durojaiye returns to seat)
GREETINGS FROM THE COURT
Please welcome Dean Judith Daar, Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold Dean of Chase College of Law.
(Dean Daar takes the podium.)
It is my pleasure now to introduce Justice Michelle Keller of the Supreme Court of Kentucky and Chase Class of 1990 to offer greetings and congratulations from the Supreme Court to the Classes of 2020 and 2021.
Justice Michelle Keller has served on the Kentucky Supreme Court since 2013, and among her current leadership roles, she is Chairperson of the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission. Before joining the Supreme Court, she served on Kentucky Court of Appeals for seven years, and prior to her service on the bench, she practiced law for seventeen years.
Justice Keller attended Chase College of Law while working as a licensed registered nurse in critical care, graduating from Chase in 1990. She has been recognized numerous times for her service to the judiciary and the bar, and to legal services organizations and the Commonwealth, most recently as the recipient of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Distinguished Judge Award for 2020. She has also served Chase College of Law through the years as a board member, featured speaker, and mentor to student organizations, and she is a past recipient of the Chase Alumni Association’s Exceptional Service award.
Please welcome Justice Michelle Keller.
(Dean Daar returns to seat. Justice Keller takes the podium.)
[Justice Keller to insert brief remarks.]
[Justice Keller to introduce Justice Robert Conley.]
(Justice Keller returns to seat; Justice Conley takes the podium.)
[Justice Conley to insert brief remarks.]
(Justice Conley returns to seat.)
TRIBUTE TO THE CLASS OF 2020
To offer a tribute to the Chase College of Law class of 2020, please welcome Professor John Bickers. Last spring, Professor Bickers was elected by the Class of 2020 as the Salmon P. Chase College of Law Professor of the Year, an award he previously received in 2016 and 2018.
Good evening. I would like to thank the class of 2021 for sparing a moment for me to say something to the members of the class of 2020 who are also here. And 21s—you can listen. You may find it relevant for you, too.
Class of 2020, congratulations. You have finished law school. Heck, many of you have already passed the bar and entered into promising legal careers. Take a moment to celebrate your achievements. We in the faculty and staff certainly do.
You spent years listening to law profs encouraging you to think. Tonight, I want to encourage you not to think—at least, not to think a particular kind of thought.
In the days and months and years to come, you will sometimes think back to the spring of 2020. Some of those thoughts will be angry, and some will be sad. You did not have the end to your law school career that you expected. That you deserved. A global pandemic, a once-in-a-century event, took that away from you. Sometimes, looking back, you will be angry that this happened to you. You will be sad that this happened to you. You will feel sorry for yourself.
I don’t want to dissuade you from having those thoughts. I want to dissuade you from having the thoughts that come next. Because after feeling angry or sad, you will sometimes feel embarrassed or guilty. Other people suffered far more than I, you might think. Sure, I missed the Barrister’s Ball and graduation—other people lost jobs, lost homes, lost family members. I, you may think, have no right to feel bitter about what happened to me.
Those are the thoughts that I want to encourage you to reject. It is no doubt true that some people have suffered more than you. Some of you have suffered more than others. But the thing about suffering is that it isn’t a contest, and all of it is real. You have suffered, and it is okay to be angry, to be sad, to feel sorry for yourself.
So, when those thoughts come, don’t criticize yourself for having them. Let the anger and sadness wash over you. Yell if it helps. Weep if it helps.
But then, I ask you to find a mirror. Go to it—look at yourself—and see the strong and talented lawyer that we at Chase know you to be. Appreciate all that you have already accomplished. And then go accomplish some more—go forth as the attorney you have become and do real good for your clients. You are going to make lives better every day of your practice.
Good luck. Godspeed. Go Norse.
(Professor Bickers returns to seat.)
PRESENTATION OF THE SALMON P. CHASE AWARD
For the presentation of the Salmon P. Chase Awards, please welcome Dean Judith Daar.
(Dean Daar assumes the podium.)
It is my honor to present the Salmon P. Chase Award. This award is given annually, recognizing a graduating student who best exemplifies Salmon P. Chase's passion, dedication, and advocacy on behalf of others.
I would first like to present the 2020 Salmon P. Chase Award recipient, Megan Smiddie. Megan, will you please join me on stage?
(While Dean Daar continues to read notes on Smiddie, Smiddie makes her way up the ramp to the stage to accept the award.)
While a student at Chase, Megan was a tremendously active volunteer at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center logging over 300 hours of pro bono work helping prisoners who were victims of domestic violence. Additionally, Megan became involved with the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and completed volunteer hours through St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s continuing education program on human trafficking in the Northern Kentucky region.
She continued to demonstrate a dedicated pursuit of social justice with her work in the Constitutional Litigation Clinic and an international human rights law program in Costa Rica. In one of her peer nominations for the Salmon P. Chase Award, a colleague described her as a “leader among her peers” and “a voice for her classmates.” She is, it seems, also a voice for people everywhere.
Please join me in congratulating Megan Smiddie on receiving the 2020 Salmon P. Chase Award.
(Applause. Dean Daar hands award to Smiddie, Smiddie leaves stage and returns to her seat on the floor. Dean Daar returns to the podium to present the second award.)
I would also like to present the 2021 Salmon P. Chase Award recipient, Holly McCabe. Holly, will you please join me on stage?
(While Dean Daar reads notes on McCabe, McCabe makes her way up the ramp to the stage to accept the award.)
From her first day as a student at Chase, Holly’s goal has been to be able to help people who are in need. She reached her goal through her work with the Children’s Law Center Clinic representing children in court, the Kentucky Innocence Project investigating claims of wrongful conviction and the Ohio Justice & Policy Center pursuing redress of individuals’ rights.
Her advocacy has also included work with a Chase professor on an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in a capital punishment case, an internship with the Hamilton County Public Defender doing groundbreaking research in Cincinnati and participation at Chase in Street Law, a national program to teach young people about law and law-related careers.
Please join me in congratulating the 2021 Salmon P. Chase Award winner, Holly McCabe.
(Applause. Dean Daar hands award to McCabe, McCabe leaves stage and returns to her seat on the floor. Dean Daar returns to her seat.)
(As McCabe returns to the floor,
Brendan Sullivan is ready to walk up the ramp.)
To present the valedictory remarks on behalf of the student body, please welcome Brendan Sullivan, valedictorian of the Chase College of Law Class of 2021.
(Brendan Sullivan assumes the podium.)
My fellow graduates and members of our faculty and staff, I’d like to start off by thanking you for this extraordinary honor. I am so grateful to have been chosen to speak to you today. And I would like to thank everyone’s loved ones for their support and dedication. Without you, we would not have the privilege to be here today.
“It’s the hard days that really count.” When I wrestled in college, my teammates and I would often go to a local wrestling club for extra practices. Every day there nearly broke me. I’d get easily beaten day after day by someone who worked just a little harder, was just a little stronger, or just a little better than me that day. I lost nearly every day and it made me miserable.
But just when I was about to quit, I’d look up at a phrase painted up on the wall of the wrestling room, surrounded by pictures of those great wrestlers who came before me. It read, “It’s the hard days that really count.” Every time that I would get close to breaking in that room, after every day that I left beaten and bruised, I’d try to remember that phrase. I knew that I couldn’t quit because the days when I felt like quitting were the days that were really going to matter. I thought that if I just kept showing up, then my luck would change and that just like those wrestlers up on the wall, that I would also make those hard days really count. That phrase got me through a lot, and I think that it got me here today.
Law school is set up to make you question yourself, so when I started law school, I felt like a complete idiot. Everyone around me seemed so much smarter than me. Reading cases didn’t help and just made me confused. Cold calls were humiliating exercises that seemed designed to make me doubt myself. It seemed like, no matter how hard I tried, nothing ever really clicked. Some days seemed so much harder than others, and on those days, my doubt grew so much that I really questioned myself and whether I belonged here. But then, that phrase kept flashing in my mind. I knew that the hard days were going to count not only for me, but for all of us who struggled in the same way, as long as we kept showing up.
My fellow graduates, we’re finally here. After every cold call, every exam, and every last-minute scan of our outlines, we’re finally here. After a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, civil unrest, and the most bitter partisan divide that we’ve seen in centuries, we’re finally here. And after every sacrifice, every sigh of exasperation, and every defeat, we’re finally here.
It seemed like it was impossible to concentrate with everything that was happening around us. It seemed like the hard days were never going to end and that it would be better if we just quit. I imagine that many of you felt the same way because it seemed like the past several years were full of one hard day after another hard day without any payoff.
But we kept showing up because we all knew that we were going to make it here today. We kept showing up when we were forced to take online classes while sheltering in place. We kept showing up when the economy tanked, and it seemed like every employer closed their doors. And the class of 2020 even showed up when they had to take a remote bar exam where they couldn’t look away from the screen for more than five seconds at a time. In this time, we’ve accomplished so much by staying resilient, even when it seemed like the world was trying to break us. We kept pushing and running towards the finish on our hardest days because if law school taught us one thing, it taught us that if we kept going and put in the work, then we could accomplish so much.
So, class of 2020 and class of 2021, congratulations! You’re here today and you’ve finally made all of those hard days really count. Thank you.
(Sullivan leaves the stage to return to his seat on the arena floor.)
PROFESSOR OF THE YEAR AWARD AND REMARKS
For the presentation of the 2021 Professor of the Year Award, please welcome Dean Judith Daar.
(Dean Daar returns to podium.)
It is now my honor to present the 2021 Professor of the Year Award. Each graduating class selects a professor whose excellence in teaching and commitment to the students leaves a lasting impact on their lives and futures. The Class of 2021 has the distinct pleasure of selecting Professor Jennifer Kinsley as the recipient of the Professor of the Year Award.
Professor Kinsley, as you can read in your program, has an extensive and prolific career as a professor, attorney, administrator, and, most of all, mentor to the students. Much more than the first to raise her hand to volunteer, she is the one who comes up with the idea and then volunteers herself and her limited time because it is all in the benefit of the students. Please join me in welcoming Professor Kinsley as she accepts well-deserved praise and gratitude from us all.
(Dean Daar presents award to Kinsley; Daar returns to her seat on stage, Kinsley takes the podium for brief remarks.)
I am so honored to be standing here today and so touched by your recognition of me. But the truth is that I am the one who should be thanking you.
When I think back over the last 3 years, we’ve had a lot of fun together: learning in LAPS that, yes, koolaid mix is actually healthy; the Halloween when your costumes included trash from New Jersey, the Youngstown Steel twilight zone, and enough Notorious RBG’s to form a softball team; the time I learned the hard way that using circles to diagram the First Amendment results in something anatomically inappropriate;
weddings, babies, job offers extended, grades improved, quiet anonymous gifts of supplies for the homeless, of art, of hand sanitizer; the celebration of your great accomplishment today. Through it all, we have shared the best of ourselves with each other, and we have felt joy. For this, I thank you.
But, looking back, there have also been hard days. The frustrations of law school (dare I say evidence), the loss of loved ones, illness, isolation, unexpected breakups, violence, the weight of family instability, failure, having everything you worked so hard for snatched away in the blink of an eye by an invisible virus. Through it all, you have shared the pain of your hearts with me, and in a very public way, I have shared the tragedies of my life with you. On days when I did not know how I would put one foot in front of the other, I always knew I could stand before you in a classroom – or these days sit before you on a computer screen – and share a subject and a profession I deeply love with you. In this way, our classroom became our sanctuary, where we could leave the broken world behind and for a moment just learn, and grow, and be. For this, I thank you.
As you move forward in your careers, it strikes me that the future will look a lot like the past. There will be amazing days filled with excitement: big cases won; goals achieved; taking the hand of a client and walking her away from a life sentence out of the prison gates and into the beautiful sun. But there will also be dark days too, days when, despite your best efforts, you cannot ease your client’s suffering, days when justice seems elusive. And on all of these days, I encourage you to find your sanctuary. Find your people and your place. Find what you love. Be what you love.
As I move forward into the future with my head held high, I want you to know that you put it there, and in a very real sense, I would not be standing here without you. You will forever be in my sanctuary, and I hope I will forever be in yours. From the bottom of heart, I am grateful to you, and I am so very proud of you. Congratulations, today and always.
(After remarks, Kinsley is seated.)
Please direct your attention to the stage for a musical interlude performed by Dr. Jason Vest, Assistant Provost and Associate Professor of Voice in Northern Kentucky University’s School of the Arts. Dr. Vest will be performing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
(Vest to mic. Cue soundtrack. Vest performs. Applause.)
Once again, please welcome Dean Judith Daar.
(Dean Daar takes the podium.)
[Daar to insert remarks.]
(Dean Daar is seated.)
Please welcome Dr. Ashish Vaidya, President of Northern Kentucky University.
(Vaidya assumes podium.)
• Good evening.
• It is my distinct pleasure and honor to preside over the first in-person commencement ceremony at NKU since December 2019.
• We have come a long way this past year and I am delighted to be here to honor and celebrate the graduates from the Chase College of Law.
• Thank you, interim Provost Durojaiye, Justice Keller, Justice Conley, Professor Kinsley, Professor Bickers and Dean Daar for your remarks and words of encouragement to the classes of 2020 and 2021.
• Thank you, Regent Dennis Repenning, for joining us today and for your 12 years of service to this university as regent.
• Congratulations to Megan, Holly and Brendan, and thank you, Brendan, for your inspiring words here today.
• These three graduates truly exemplify the remarkable law graduates this institution sends out into the world.
• To the family members and friends who are with us this evening in support of your graduate, thank you for the important role you have played in your student’s success. Congratulations on a job well done.
• To the devoted Chase faculty, thank you for joining us today and, more importantly, for impacting our students’ lives each day. You are an inspiration to our students, our alumni and our community.
• And to our wonderful staff — thank you for always putting our students first. Supporting student success is at the forefront of everyone’s role on campus.
• Over the past three years, I have had numerous occasions to meet with Chase students and alumni.
• The message I continue to hear loud and clear is that Chase students and alumni are exceedingly proud of their alma mater.
• And with good reason:
• Chase provides many opportunities for students to hone practice skills firsthand by participating in externships regionally and globally and through clinics like:
o The Children’s Law Center Clinic,
o The Constitutional Litigation Clinic,
o The Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic,
o and, our most recent addition, the 6th Circuit Clinic, which gives Chase students the opportunity to work under seasoned appellate attorneys and former 6th Circuit clerks to brief and argue criminal appeals in the 6th Circuit.
• For nearly 130 years now, the Chase College of Law has been committed to teaching students to use justice and the law to help others and to shape society.
• Chase has offered opportunities for deserving students to become practice-ready lawyers through innovative programs in law, business, and technology.
• Our mission here is to empower you, our graduates, to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, while contributing to the economic, civic, and social vitality of the region.
• Earning a law degree is quite a feat no matter what the circumstances and obstacles may be.
• But reaching this goal amid the turmoil of the past 15 months is truly remarkable.
• Given that, I hope your time at Chase has empowered you with opportunities to gain new knowledge and learn new skills.
• I hope you took the opportunity to develop lasting relationships with classmates, professors and staff members.
• Because of these opportunities and experiences, the road ahead holds great promise for you.
• As you begin your journey and career in the area of law, please know that now more than ever, this region, our country and the world needs your active engagement not just professionally but in the communities you call home.
• The pandemic, our nation’s racial reckoning and cries for social justice, the presidential election and the insurrection at the Capitol, brought to bear that we all have a responsibility and role in nurturing an equitable, just and inclusive democracy. I echo the words of 157 law school deans – including our own Dean Daar – who wrote in a joint statement after the events of January 6th – “A sustained effort will be necessary to repair and preserve our precious democratic institutions. As legal educators and lawyers ourselves, we must redouble our efforts to restore faith in the rule of law and the ideals of the legal profession. We have enormous faith in the law’s enduring values and in our students, who will soon lead this profession.”
• So, as you head out into the world to accomplish new and exciting things, I ask that you please never forget your obligation to the public good.
• As you weigh the heavy responsibility of helping to organize and sustain civilized society through the practice of law in truly unprecedented times, know that the staff, faculty and administration of Chase and Northern Kentucky University have complete confidence in you.
• NKU is proud to have you wear the NKU Chase College of Law label as you leave here today, because we know you will honor the Chase name and you will honor your profession.
• And please, know that NKU Chase is always home for you.
• You are now one of more than 77,000 NKU alumni who live and work in every corner of the commonwealth and around the globe.
• Finally, honor the family and friends who helped you become the talented individuals you are today.
• Like you, they have made many sacrifices in the name of your success. They have embraced you with encouragement and love when you needed their support. They have celebrated your achievements when you excelled.
• Graduates - We are so proud of each and every one of you and we want to continue to be part of your lives.
• I am thrilled to wrap up this academic year with you today as you begin the next chapter of your lives.
· And I wish you the very best professionally and personally as you embark on this exciting and worthy adventure in the service of others.
(After his remarks, President Vaidya steps to side of podium;
Dean Daar steps forward for presentation of candidates for degrees)
(Dean Daar assumes podium.)
PRESENTATION OF CANDIDATES FOR DEGREES
President Vaidya, it is my privilege to present to you the Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law graduating classes of 2020 and 2021.
(President Vaidya returns to the podium;
Dean Daar moves stage right of center podium.)
CONFERRING OF DEGREES
It is now my privilege to confer the degrees. Will all the candidates please rise? By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Commonwealth of Kentucky through the Board of Regents of Northern Kentucky University, I confer upon you the degree for which you have been recommended. I now declare you a graduate of the Salmon P. Chase College of Law of Northern Kentucky University. Congratulations upon your professional attainment.
(Professor Kinsley moves to the reader station stage right to read names)
(President Vaidya and Dean Daar move to Stage left of Center)
(Professor Kinsley reads the name of each student when they reach the top of the ramp on stage. After the name is read, the graduate proceeds across the stage. Graduates are not hooded on stage.)
(Each graduate is photographed on stage.)
(As each graduate leaves the stage they pick up a diploma tube before proceeding down the ramp and returning to their seats. After all the graduates have crossed the stage and returned to their seats, Professor Kinsley, Dean Daar, and President Vaidya are seated.)
SINGING OF ALMA MATER
Would you please rise for the singing of our alma mater, the words of which are on the back cover of your program? The alma mater will be led Blair Lamb, a student in the School of the Arts.
(Vocal soloist takes the stage.)
(Platform party rises for singing of Alma Mater)
SINGING OF THE ALMA MATER...................... Led by Vocal Soloist
(Dean Daar returns to the podium.)
You have now officially joined the ranks of those thousands of Chase alumni who lead, advise, and better their communities and neighbors every day. You join the ranks of some of the best attorneys, executives, judges, and community leaders in the country. I know that they welcome you just as we at Chase welcomed you when you began your journey here.
Congratulations! You are now a GRADUATE of Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law!
That concludes our commencement ceremony. Please remain standing while the platform party, graduates, and faculty recess from hall.
Graduates and guests, we ask you to please meet the members of your party outside the arena.
Again, I congratulate each our graduates and wish you the best of continued success.
(Cue pre-recorded recessional music. Grand Marshal Kinsley stands stage left of the podium signaling the exit march and remains there until all the platform guests have recessed.)
(All members of the platform party to recess Stage Right.)
(Grand Marshal Kinsley exits Stage Right following the last person
from the platform party.)
(The graduates and faculty follow the platform party in exiting the hall.)
Ceremony Start Time: 5 p.m.
Commencement parking is available free of charge in all surface lots and garages on campus on May 8. Disabled parking is available on all levels of the Welcome Center Garage located across the street from the arena.
For directions to Northern Kentucky University visit the Maps and Directions page.
Photographs of graduates will be taken during the ceremony by professional photographers from GradImages.
Order information and proofs will be sent to you by the photographer within three to five days after the ceremony. For more information or to order prints please call 1-800-261-2576 or email email@example.com.
GradImages is offering 20% off graduation photo orders of $50 or more when graduates register their email address prior to graduation. Visit the GradImages website and click on Pre-Event Registration to take advantage of this offer.
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