Monday Morning Message 5.24.21 Special Commencement Edition: We Churned our Cream into Butter

Posted 2021-05-24 9:22am

“I am so honored and humbled to be here representing Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s class of 2021….In the movie "Catch Me if You Can," Christopher Walken's character Frank tells the story of two little mice who fell into a bucket of cream. He says, "the first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn't quit. Eventually, he struggled so hard, he churned that cream into butter and crawled out."

 I think we can all identify with that second mouse. College, grad school, law school - these are all difficult and challenging even under perfect conditions, let alone during a global pandemic. All of us had to adjust to a new normal. Every single person graduating here today faced their own personal challenges during this difficult time. But like the second mouse, not a single one of us gave up. And every single one of us should be very, very proud to be graduating today.

 It is also important to note that we weren’t alone in this endeavor. Luckily, we had amazing faculty, staff, and administration who were able to handle adjusting to a new mode of delivering education while still providing students with the tools we needed to succeed. And every family member and friend sitting in the stands today contributed much-needed support.

 Although our school experience may have been a bit different than we expected when we first came to CSU, we all rose to the challenge. We persevered. We churned our cream into butter. And for that, we should celebrate.” – Caitlin Steiner, CSU Cleveland- Marshall Valedictorian at May 15, 2021 University Commencement (see Caitlin at 47:44)

 Watch this special musical video for our 2021 graduates featuring Professor Angelin Changa Grammy Award winner, and 3L student, Ashley Nemeh, an accomplished singer/songwriter. Enjoy hereSpecial Musical Tribute to 2021 C|M|LAW Graduates

Historically, our law school has had a separate Commencement, but this year, as a sign of solidarity with the entire Cleveland State University community that worked through the pandemic together, we joined the university in its May 15, 2021 University Commencement at Progressive Field (see 59:24 for CSU Cleveland-Marshall Class of 2021)  See 2021 Graduation Photos

The Commencement speaker was our own graduate, Hon. Marcia Fudge '83, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who in her Commencement Address spoke about the transformational experience she had at CSU Cleveland-Marshall. CSU Board Chair, David Gunning, ’94, in his remarks, also acknowledged his great education at our law school.

CSU President Harlan Sands gave a much appreciated shout out to Alexis Bovell ’21 and Anita Davenport’21(see 18:50 at May 15, 2021 University Commencement) members of the CSU Cleveland-Marshall BLSA Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Team, who won 1st Place at the 2020-2021 National Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition, and to Catelyn Cook ’21, (see 19:34 at May 15, 2021 University Commencement), the youngest graduate in Cleveland-Marshall history. She graduated in 2.5 years this past December 2020 at 20 years old. Alexis Bovell recently wrote me saying, “It is an honor to be forever associated with such an impactful institution. I aspire to embody Cleveland-Marshall's mission to “Learn Law. Live Justice," in all of my further endeavors.”

The next day, Sunday, May 16, we held a private outdoor photo reception on the law school lawn with our graduating students, staff, and faculty. We heard brief remarks from Hannah Kraus ’21, President of the Student Bar Association, and Renee Stromski ’21, winner of the Dean’s Learn Law Live Justice Award. This special award is given to a student who has not only been academically successful in learning law but also has learned what it means to live justice - to be committed to making clients’ lives better and our communities stronger.

I’m also pleased to share some other recent student, staff and faculty awards:

  •  JEDI (Justice, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity) Award – Chukwuka Anyafo ’22, Brandy Davis ’22, Tayler Gill ’22, and Davona Mason ’22. In consultation with our Diversity Council and the Faculty Co-Chairs of the Racial Justice Work Groups - Professors April Cherry, Professor Matthew Green, Professor Ken Kowalski, and Professor Pam Daiker-Middaugh, I created this new student award to recognize outstanding student leadership in advocating for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Student Bar Association Faculty Member of the Year – Professor Reggie Oh  As one his students notedProfessor Oh is by far the best educator I have had at Cleveland-Marshall. He moves through the material at a reasonable pace, facilitates and encourages open dialogue, is always cheerful and passionate about the subject matter, and makes the big picture of the lectures clear.”
  • Student Bar Association Staff Member of the Year – Jaime Gay, Assistant Director, Student and Career Services  A student wrote Jaime, I wanted to thank you for taking so much time helping me these past few months. Coming from a huge school like Ohio State, I am very used to taking on the job search alone without any real help from advisors. I’m so appreciative that you helped me every step of way.”
  • Dean’s Teachers – Professor April Cherry and Professor Sandra Kerber  Every two years, I select 1-2 members of our outstanding faculty who have demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching, as “Dean’s Teacher.”  Both professors are beloved by their students and they serve as models for effective, innovative teaching.

As one of her students notes, Professor Cherry is “a phenomenal advocate for the law school's mission, Learn Law, Live Justice. Throughout the semester, she has integrated current issues of race and social justice into our property curriculum, showing how interconnected racial discrimination and property law is in our country's history.”  

As one of her students notes about Professor Kerber , She has taught us moral and ethical lessons, etiquette standards regarding job interviews and courtroom appearances, and has invited numerous guest speakers to our class from different areas of law to speak about their careers and inspire us.”

  • Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year - Robert Eckman - Bob teaches Cybersecurity and played a central role in creating our Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Certificate program.

Caitlin Steiner ’21, our Valedictorian, said it well. This past year has been extraordinary and has put the grit and resilience of our students, staff, and faculty on full display. Thanks to them, we churned our cream into butter.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Committed to Living Justice.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

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My best,


Lee Fisher

Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law | Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law


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