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Fall 2019

Law School Celebrates 118th Commencement

BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL celebrated its 118th commencement ceremony on May 17, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where 328 J.D. and 21 LL.M. degrees were conferred. Barbara D. Underwood, solicitor general of New York, was the commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree.

Underwood was appointed as New York’s solicitor general in 2007. She served in that position until May 2018, when she was appointed the state’s acting attorney general, the first woman to hold that office. She was reappointed solicitor general by Attorney General Letitia James in January 2019. Underwood, who served as the acting solicitor general and principal deputy solicitor general of the United States from 1998 to 2001, was also the first female solicitor general in U.S. history. She has argued 21 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently challenging the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

“Don’t be afraid of being a pioneer. It turns out to be a pretty rewarding thing to do,” she told the graduates.

Stuart Subotnick ’68, chairman of the Board of Trustees, presided over the ceremony and led the conferring of degrees. He acknowledged the alumni celebrating their 50th reunion year who joined the graduates on stage, David Berkowitz ’69, and Jeffrey D. Forchelli ’69, a member of the Board of Trustees. Amina Darwish, coordinator of Muslim life at Columbia University, delivered the opening invocation.

U.S. Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer, who was the commencement speaker in 2015, made a surprise appearance. Schumer extended special congratulations to Jenna Jones ’19, who served as the senator’s director of scheduling while attending law school.

The graduates also heard from valedictorian Nastassia Shcherbatsevich ’19 and Spencer Eliot Smith ’19, who was elected student speaker by his classmates.

Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton spoke of the Law School’s history of admitting women in the early 20th century when other schools barred them from pursuing law degrees—and how far women have come in the profession. “Today, women make up 53 percent of the class of 2019. I’m proud to say Brooklyn Law School has played an important role in allowing women access to the law,” she said.

The Law School continued its annual tradition of hosting a picnic for graduates and their families in the courtyard of the main campus building.