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Emory Law presents Class of 2014, honors Johnson, Lewis

Emory University School of Law |
John Lewis, keynote speaker for Emory University School of Law's 2014 Diploma Ceremony
U. S. Congressman John Lewis
Speaker and recipient, honorary doctor of laws degree

Emory Law awarded diplomas to 319 graduates Monday, during a ceremony that pointed to the law’s power to advance the public good.

Among the new degree holders were two men whose lives and careers demonstrate commitment to that ideal—former chair of Emory University’s Board of Trustees Ben F. Johnson III and U.S. Congressman John Lewis. Both received honorary doctor of laws degrees at the university’s 169th commencement exercises, and Lewis later addressed graduates at the law school diploma ceremony.

“There is no one whose life embodies the ideals we strive for at Emory Law better than the Honorable John Lewis,” said Emory Law Dean Robert A. Schapiro. Lewis has received more than 50 honorary degrees and many awards recognizing his work for justice, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Lewis reminded graduates that persistence and the long view were essential during the decades of legal battles for human and civil rights.

“The movement was a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas,” he said. “Our country is a better country, and we are a better people. Seek justice. Never ever turn back, never ever give up. Keep the faith … and continue to work for what is right and what is just.”

Johnson is the son of former Emory Law Dean Ben F. Johnson Jr. 36C 40L, who along with the late Henry Bowden Sr. 32C 34L, argued the historic Georgia Supreme Court case that led to integration of the state’s private universities. Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree at Emory in 1965 and his JD at Harvard Law School, but returned to Atlanta to practice at Alston & Bird LLP, and to serve his alma mater as chairman of the Emory University Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2013.

“When I became interim dean of Emory Law in 2011, the first call I made was to Ben Johnson,” Schapiro said. “The university, this school, and I, owe Ben a debt of gratitude for his leadership and service.”

The graduating class selected Adam Kahn 14L to receive the Minister Gloria Jean Fowler Angel Award. Student Bar Association President Megan Ballard 14L was selected by the graduating class as the Most Outstanding 3L student.

Frank Alexander, Emory Law professorFrank Alexander, Sam Nunn Professor of Law and founding director, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, was selected as the Most Outstanding Professor.

“The legal profession is first and foremost a service profession,” Alexander said, after thanking students for the honor. “Never forget service is not a duty, it is a privilege.

“You did not get here alone, and you surely did not get through this alone. You have been blessed by the gifts of others,” he added. “As you now go forward in your lives and your vocations, may the gifts you have been given be a blessing to each and every person you encounter.” (Read Professor Alexander's remarks below.)

Dean Schapiro recognized Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, who received the University Scholar Teacher Award. It is given to an Emory faculty member who has excelled as a classroom teacher, student advisor and scholar.

L.Q.C Lamar Professor of Law Thomas Arthur received the Emory Williams Teaching Award for exemplary teaching, creative scholarship and living a life that upholds the profession’s ideals, all while serving as a mentor and counselor to students.

Degrees awarded to the class of 2014 included Doctor of Law and Master of Business Administration, Doctor of Law and Master of Public Health, Doctor of Law and Master of Theological Studies, Doctor of Law and TI:GER Program Certificate in Intellectual Property, Doctor of Law and Certificate in Transactional Law and Skills, Doctor of Law, Doctor of Juridical Science, Master of Laws and Juris Master.

Remarks to Graduating Students: Frank Alexander

Thank you for this gift to me. I am honored and humbled by this gift in every way. Each of you, and all of you, has been a gift to me and to all of the faculty and staff of Emory Law over the past three years. Your presence with us over these past three years has renewed in us the enduring truths of the past. Your presence with us over the past three years has emboldened us with the creativity of the present. Your presence with us over the past three years has inspired in us the transformational possibilities of the future. You have renewed us; you have emboldened us; you have inspired us. You have given us great hope for the days yet to come. These are magnificent gifts you have given to us. They are blessings to us and we thank you for them. Each of you has been given many gifts…

By your parents, and most particularly by your Mothers,

By your spouses and partners,

By your friends, And in some cases by your children.

You did not get here alone; you did not get through this alone. You have been blessed by the gifts of others. As you now go forward in your lives, your vocations, your profession, may the gifts you have been given be a blessing to each and every person you encounter. The legal profession is first and foremost a service profession. It is up to you to decide who you will serve and what you will serve. Service is not a duty. Service is a privilege. Service is a blessing to others, but it is also a blessing to you. In the opportunity for service lies the possibility of freedom. May you use your gifts, your service, your lives to enrich and multiply the blessings of others.

Be well my friends, and thank you.