Dickinson Law celebrates Juris Doctor and Master of Laws graduates at 2018 commencement
For Shawn Baldwin ’18, attending law school became top of mind while completing his undergraduate degree in criminal justice at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA. “I realized that injuries I sustained while serving in the military would prevent me from staying in active law enforcement. Pursuing a law degree and ultimately a career in criminal law seemed like the next logical step for me.”
Baldwin, who has served as a military police officer in the Army National Guard for more than 16 years, received his juris doctor (J.D.) as part of Penn State Dickinson Law’s inaugural class of 2018 during commencement on Saturday, May 12, at the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, Dickinson College, Carlisle.
Selected by his fellow graduates as the class of 2018 student speaker, Baldwin congratulated his peers for their achievements. “Now, you are the learned ones who get to assist, protect and defend others in court and in life. I have nothing but faith in you, I believe in you, and I am proud to call you all my friends, my colleagues, and now, my fellow advocates.”
Dickinson Law Dean Gary S. Gildin believes that the graduates will not only carry with them knowledge of substantive law, analytical and practical skills, but also—and perhaps more importantly—the complementary problem-solving tools that are not unique to the law. “I would predict that on a daily basis, they will use the extra-legal competencies that, from the very first day, we’ve embedded in virtually each and every course in our curriculum.”
Many of the class of 2018 graduates will launch their legal careers in a wide range of employment settings throughout the country and have accepted post-graduate employment offers that either require them to pass the bar or for which a J.D. degree is an advantage. Several will clerk for federal or state court judges; serve in government jobs, including U.S. Army Judge Advocate General appointments and District Attorneys’ offices; and work in large, regional, boutique and small law firms; in public interest; and in business and industry.
Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Immediate Past President and Triquetra Law Managing Partner Sharon R. López delivered this year’s keynote address. López addressed the topics that have been a central theme in her legal life: the rule of law, social justice, and diversity and inclusion.
“As a lawyer, you must promote, protect, defend and advance the rule of law. Our system of democracy can only survive if lawyers like you use the role of law as sword and shield for order and justice. Look for ways to be a social engineer for justice as you go forward in your careers and don’t accept when injustice is the status quo. Incorporate everyday inclusion acts into your work to promote diversity.”
Over the last 25 years, López has learned about the challenges of being a lawyer leader and about being a woman of many firsts, including the first Latina president of the PBA, the first president who served as a legal services attorney, and the first president who is also a mother. In fact, López noted that much of the advice she offered to the graduates has also been shared with her children.
“I would consistently say to my kids, ‘Know who you are before you are put in a position to make a tough choice about what you will do.’ I think this will help you with the points I’ve covered today. Know who you are and what you will do when you are put in a position to defend the rule of law. Know who you are and what you will do when others accept injustice as the status quo. Know who you are and what you will do to be more inclusive, so others feel like they fit in. As a mom, as a lawyer, and as a leader, I am counting on you to lead the way for a more just and inclusive democracy.”
Erin Varley ’18 is confident that the class of 2018 will do just that. As this year’s Lee Popp Award recipient, which recognizes Varley’s excellence in service, extracurricular activities and devotion to the class, she recognized her classmates as “an incredibly special group of overwhelmingly intelligent and kindhearted people. I have learned more from you than I could have ever believed possible, and my legal education was bolstered by your presence. But more importantly, I have witnessed your goodness. I am confident that the class of 2018 will continue contributing positively to this world for many years.”
“In a few minutes, we will receive our diplomas, which will enable us to study for the bar exam and then practice law. Both of these are challenging and often yield complaining. But before you complain, please remember how much you wanted what you have now, and how many people in this country and this world have been denied this exact opportunity because of discrimination, violence, financial or other circumstances. Remember, the thing you want to complain about is the opportunity to acquire and use knowledge denied to many. Your complaint is someone else’s strongest desire to experience. Do not take this degree for granted.”
As their parting gift, more than half of the graduates—many of whom benefited from the generosity of Law School alumni—made commitments to the Dickinson Law Student Scholarship Fund to help make a legal education accessible to future law students.
“This is a recent and tangible example of how the inaugural entering class established the ‘Dickinson Law way’,” said Gildin. “They embraced and refined the idea that they should place the interest of our community above self-interest—and that is exactly what they did during each of their three years of law school.”
Gildin’s advice to the graduates is simple. “Always think about and understand the human needs of your clients, and keep those needs front and center. Practicing this will make you the truly great lawyer that we expect and know you will become.”
Dr. Nicholas P. Jones, executive vice president and provost, The Pennsylvania State University, delivered opening remarks. Elliott Weinstein, The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees member, conferred the degrees, which were presented by Dean Gildin and Amy C. Gaudion, associate dean for academic affairs and international programs.
View photos from Dickinson Law’s 2018 commencement.
Pictured left to right: Dr. Nicholas P. Jones, executive vice president and provost, The Pennsylvania State University; Sharon R. Lopez, immediate past president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and managing partner, Triquetra Law; Gary S. Gildin, dean, Dickinson Law