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    05.25.18 Brooklyn Law School Celebrates 117th Commencement, Announces Honors
    Brooklyn Law School Celebrates 117th Commencement

    Brooklyn Law School celebrated its 117th commencement ceremony on May 18 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where 370 J.D. and 22 LL.M. degrees were conferred. The Law School also has announced the names of graduates who have been awarded honors.

    Hon. Dora L. Irizarry, Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York, was the commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree. Irizarry has achieved a remarkable succession of firsts in her career. She is the first Hispanic woman to serve as a state judge in New York, the first Hispanic district judge to serve in the Eastern District of New York, and the first Hispanic chief judge of that court and within the Second Circuit. In her remarks, she spoke about the strong connections between the Law School and surrounding legal community, including the nearby federal court.

    “I have had the privilege and joy of participating in Brooklyn Law School’s various academic, bench and bar programs,” she said. “I look forward enthusiastically to a continued partnership…to supplement the school’s curriculum with judicial internships, advocacy programs, and access to court proceedings and judges as learning vehicles. I am proud and pleased to say that a number of my former student interns and law clerks are Brooklyn Law School graduates—all of whom have distinguished themselves in their legal careers.” Seven Brooklyn Law School graduates have served as law clerks for Irizarry over the years, including Hon. Jeanette Rodriguez-Morick ’93, who served as her first law clerk and was on the stage at the commencement ceremony.

    Acknowledging Judge I. Leo Glasser ’48, a former dean of the Law School, and Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes Jr. ‘92, who also were on the stage, Irizarry encouraged the graduates to be inspired by, and to build on, the legacy of service and distinction of their fellow alumni.  

    “Brooklyn Law School has produced many illustrious attorneys and jurists—some of whom studied at night like Judge Glasser—while working fulltime and raising families…many of them broke barriers in the profession as women and minorities,” she said. “You now have the opportunity to follow the example of those who came before you who have made their mark as attorneys, in the private sector, as public servants, as academics and judges, and put your own spin on the world.”

    Stuart Subotnick '68, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, presided over the ceremony and led the conferring of degrees. Reverend Adriene Thorne, senior pastor at the first Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, delivered the opening invocation. The graduates also heard from valedictorian Jaime Freilich ’18 and Maria Ortiz ’18, who was elected student speaker by her classmates.

    Freilich spoke about the importance of the support the graduates have received over the years from their families, their peers, and the faculty. “While we each came to law school for our own personal reasons, we would not survive if we went through it alone because the intricacies of the law were best learned with others,” she said. “We found study partners or groups, not only to give the non-lawyers in our lives a break from our incessant ramblings, but to help ourselves—and to help each other.”

    An avid runner, Freilich recalled as a 1L running into Professor Edward Janger during a race and how he encouraged her to keep going. “That moment stuck with me because his encouragement was what I needed to make it to the finish line,” she said. “Just as Professor Janger encouraged me during my run, it was the esteemed Brooklyn Law faculty that helped each of us cross the proverbial finish line of law school—cheering us on, encouraging us when we most needed it, and providing us the education and knowledge to take on what comes next.”    

    Ortiz echoed Freilich’s message, reflecting on the many challenges she faced during her years in law school and how the strong community helped her to overcome obstacles and achieve her dream of earning her law degree. Quoting a line from the movie “A League of Their Own”—“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”—Ortiz compared the tight-knit baseball team to the support she found at the Law School. “I have been surrounded by encouraging mentors, in the form of alumni, classmates, and professors, who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself,” she said.  

    In his remarks, Dean Nick Allard encouraged the graduates to think deeply about the kind of impact that they want to have in the years ahead. “Think about what you want your legacy to be over time," said Allard. "I offer three seemingly old-fashion words that I believe are more relevant to us than ever as lawyers, as citizens and as human beings—virtue, courage and civility.” Invoking the many challenges facing the nation and the world, he told the graduates: “Future generations will look now at how you acted in this particular pivotal moment in history, or in the words of a song from the popular Broadway musical, Hamilton, “History has its eyes on you.”    

    Allard also recognized Professor Linda Feldman, founder and director of the Academic Success Program, who is retiring after 30 years of teaching at the Law School. “Linda Feldman is the heart and soul of Brooklyn Law School,” Allard said. “Her extraordinary dedication to student success has done nothing less than transform the lives of generations of our students, who earned their law degrees and went on to successful careers.”

    In another highlight of the ceremony. and a surprise to the honoree, Subotnick was awarded a special honorary degree by Francis J. Aquila ’83, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees. Subotnick, who is celebrating his 50th reunion year, was honored for his “many decades of outstanding leadership, dedication, vision, and unparalleled service and support to Brooklyn Law School.” Aquila cited Subotnick’s extraordinary philanthropy and his career achievements as chief executive officer of Metromedia Company. Also on stage with Subotnick were his classmates Joseph Catanzaro, Danny Greenblatt, and Martin Siegel.

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


    Visit the commencement Flickr gallery.

    Hear from the graduates in a special commencement video.

    Read Dean Nick Allard’s commencement speech.