Widener University Commonwealth Law School May 2020 Graduation
The Widener University Commonwealth Law School Class of 2020 is extraordinary, according to law school dean Christian A. Johnson.
In videotaped remarks played at this year’s law school celebration of graduates on Sunday, Johnson congratulated the graduates on their “extraordinary achievements, on an extraordinary day, during the extraordinary COVID-19 crisis.”
Similarly, Widener University President Julie E. Wollman recognized this class for its “leadership, perseverance, determination and resilience.”
Because of the restrictions in place as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the law school moved its May graduation festivities online but will honor all of the 2020 graduates with a commencement ceremony at The Forum on Sunday, December 13, 2020.
To kick off the graduation weekend, Widener Law Commonwealth hosted a “3L/4ED Farewell” event on Zoom on Friday afternoon. With 95 students, faculty members, administrators and law school staff in attendance, the graduates heard from Assistant Dean of Students Randi Teplitz, who served as the host of the event. Also addressing the graduates were Assistant Dean of Career Development Eden L. Mandrell and Steven Brikowski, the outgoing president of the Student Bar Association.
Teplitz, whose daily posts on the law school’s web site were viewed as a lifeline for the Widener community during the shutdown that began on March 12, acknowledged that a virtual party is not what anyone wanted for the Class of 2020.
“But, it was important for us to convene as a community to celebrate the achievements of our graduates and to give them closure on their law school experience,” she said, adding that the skills the students demonstrated during their final semester of law school amid a global pandemic will translate in many way to their careers as lawyers.
“We know you will do great things because you have already done great things,” Teplitz said.
The afternoon ceremony also featured many of the awards and recognitions traditionally conferred at commencement. Professor Christopher J. Robinette and Professor Michael R. Dimino, Sr. read out the names of the students admitted into the “Order of Barristers,” a national honorary organization whose purpose is the encouragement of oral advocacy and brief writing skills through effective law school oral advocacy programs.
Robinette also presented Amoreena L. Bua and Michael J. Joyce with plaques in recognition of their first place win at the prestigious Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County Annual Academy Mock Trial in February.
The students in turn were able to recognize an outstanding faculty and staff member, a cherished campus tradition. Brian Fearnbaugh, WLC’s Media Services & Classroom Support Specialist, was awarded Outstanding Staff Member, notably for his critical role in helping move the law school from live classrooms to digital instruction in a span of seven days this spring.
Professor Robyn L. Meadows was named Outstanding Professor of the Year, with Dean Johnson observing that while the award was for her top-notch teaching, the students also spoke warmly of her concern for them and her efforts to help them deal with the pandemic.
Also new this year was a platform for friends and family of the 2020 graduates to share congratulatory videos, with more than 120 submitted.
At 11 a.m. on Sunday, at the very time that the live graduation ceremony would have begun, a “Virtual Celebration of Graduates” page went live on the law school’s website, including messages from President Wollman, Dean Johnson and others, along with personalized slides of each graduate that can be downloaded and shared on social media.
“We look forward to watching you walk across the stage and celebrate your amazing accomplishments in person in December,” Johnson said.
In addition, a number of faculty members were available in “Zoom Rooms” immediately after the virtual commencement proceedings and encouraged graduates and their families to “drop by” to say goodbye.
Congratulations, class of 2020!