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Released on May 20, 2024
Monday Morning Message 5.20.24 Commencement 2024!

Start each day with the optimism that it could be one of your best, don’t cruise through life on autopilot. Be sure to revel in each day…..

The skillset you are leaving here with is your ability to look at situations from many perspectives. I would argue that this trait is more valuable today than ever, and more at risk in our polarized environment where every issue has an immediate magnetic attraction to a preordained  position…. The world is subjective and unyielding positions bathed in absolutes are more often the source of conflict than the solution……

You are leaving here with what I think… are the greatest skillsets you could have in life …. the ability to analyze complex situations, the ability to listen, and… the ability to champion the causes of underdogs.” -  Kenn Ricci '86 , 2024 Commencement Speaker

Yesterday was our 2024 Commencement where we celebrated the accomplishments of our talented Class of 2024.  The Class of 2024 worked exceptionally hard like most people won’t, so they can change the world in ways that most people can’t.

Our 138 graduates included 107 graduating with a JD degree, 5 with joint degrees, 18 with a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree, and 8 with an LL.M. (Master of Laws) degree. They came to us from more than 72 colleges and universities across the country and around the world. 

We heard inspiring, powerful remarks from Commencement Speaker Kenneth C. Ricci. Kenn is a 1986 graduate of CSU|LAW, a member of our CSU|LAW Hall of Fame, a recipient of the CSU Distinguished Alumni Award, and a member of our Board of Visitors. He is the Founder and Principal of Directional Aviation Capital. As an aviation entrepreneur for the last 4o years, Kenn has owned, invested, and managed private aviation enterprises that today generate more than $4 billion in annual revenue, employ more than 5,000 people across North America and Europe, and operate over 3oo aircraft.

We also heard from CSU President Laura Bloomberg and CSU Board Vice-Chair Tim Cosgrove ’87:

“We have passions and perspectives and diverse histories that shape our view of the world and consequently our view of each other. As a civil society governed by law, we are collectively—all of us at the same time yet each in our own way-- navigating a beautiful yet very complex and often cruelly painful world.  You have all chosen a field of study and a profession that seeks to ensure we have equal access to the rights and opportunities that enable us to live together in that messy yet beautiful civil society.”  - Dr. Laura Bloomberg, President, Cleveland State University

“As a very proud alum of this university and this law school, I can attest to the transformative power of the education you have received here….remember that the law is not just a profession. It’s a calling to serve others and to uphold the tenants of justice, fairness, and equity.” – Tim Cosgrove ’87, Vice-Chair, CSU Board of Trustees

We heard from three student leaders:

“We were all here because we want to learn the law in order to live justice. That is an opportunity, and maybe a burden to make the world a better place. We all have learned the law, now it’s time to live justice….. remind yourself why you are here. Let that be the passion that fuels you through your career. Continue to chase knowledge and never be afraid to ask questions. There is always room for growth. Challenge yourselves and push yourself out of your comfort zone.”  - Jalelah Jallaq ‘24, President, Student Bar Association

“Good law is always what’s good for our communities…..when our communities are in need—when we need an advocate—all we have is each other. And despite the fact that advocates come with our own imperfections and burdens and problems…. when we’re our best selves, we can find the right words to say, and we can really help each other. I hope we create a precedent of being our best selves.”  - Ernie Oleksy ’24, Co-Valedictorian

(Note: Anna Nelson, the other Valedictorian, was unable to attend)

“When we all become attorneys, people will look to us for leadership and guidance because that is what we have been trained to do. Please remember to think of the least of these when serving, move with forthright intentions honestly and not be a bystander to the injustices that you may witness. A law degree gives us an inherent sense of credibility to the non-legal world whether we like it or not. With that inherent privilege of this degree comes a responsibility to move with integrity and truth. “ – Anastasia Sakairoun ’24, recipient of the Dean’s Learn Law. Live Justice Award

Ashley Nemeh ’22, an accomplished singer-songwriter, sang the National Anthem. We honored Professor Laura Hoffman as the SBA Faculty Member of the Year and Holli Goodman, my Executive Assistant, as SBA Staff Member of the Year.  We also honored Adjunct Professor Stacey McKinley ’97with the Judge Richard M. Markus Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year Award.

Associate Deans Carolyn Broering-Jacobs and Brian Ray read the names of each graduate as President Bloomberg and I handed each graduate their diploma. The other faculty who joined us wereProfessors Pam Daiker-Middaugh, Laura Hoffman, Doron Kalir, Christa Laser, Karin Mika, Abby Moncrieff, John Plecnik, Milena Sterio, Bob Triozzi, Mark Sundahl, Jonathan Witmer-Rich, and Professor Emeritus Patricia Falk and Visiting Professor Deborah Hoffman.

Barbara Andelman, Assistant Dean for JD Admissions, assisted us with the awarding of diplomas. The other staff who joined us on stage were

Nick DeSantis, Assistant Dean for Student Success, Keisha Mitchell, Director of Advancement, and Elaine Terman, Director of Marketing.

Also joining us were Sonali Wilson, CSU General Counsel and CSU|LAW Leader-in-Residence,Sarah Flannery ’02, Chair of the Board of Visitors CSU Board of Trustees Members Nikki Byrd,Professor Judith Ausherman, Professor Anup Kumar, and Jake Wrege ’25, CSU|LAW Leaders-in-Residence Carter Strang ‘84, Sheryl King Benford ‘79, and Steve Percy ’79, and Adjunct Faculty member Matthew Fitzsimmons.

We were also honored that some of our distinguished judicial alumni joined us:

Justice Melody Stewart ’88      Ohio Supreme Court
Hon. Sean C. Gallagher ‘898th District Ohio Court of Appeals
Hon. Nicholas Celebrezze ‘03Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court
Hon. John J. Russo ‘92Cuyahoga County Court of Commons Pleas
Hon. Cassandra Collier-Williams ‘90Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Hon. Deborah M. Turner ‘97Cuyahoga County Court of Commons Pleas
Magistrate Joy Kennedy ’05Cleveland Municipal Court

Special thanks to Jill Natran, Administrative Coordinator, Holli Goodman, Executive Assistant to the Dean, and Elaine Terman, Marketing Director, for leading the planning and execution of our very successful 2024 Commencement. Thanks also to the many other staff who attended and volunteered.

It was a memorable day in our proud history.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

The views and opinions expressed in my Monday Morning Message are solely my own and do not reflect the views and opinions of the law school or the university.

My best,

Lee

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