Commencement Ceremony & Reception
- Ceremony: 10 a.m. Friday, May 11, Georgia State Sports Arena, 125 Decatur St., Atlanta, GA 30303
- Reception: Noon-2 p.m. Friday, May 11, College of Law, 85 Park Place NE, Atlanta, GA 30303
“For most people, we think one day we’ll do something and then we keep talking about it but don’t do it. Ask yourself if you will regret the decision not to do it. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go to law school.”
As the student commencement speaker this year, Thomas Michael “Mike” Hodell, 52, wants to impart what it has meant to him personally to attend Georgia State Law and embark on what he calls “my third career.”
Hodell is a former engineer. A degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in industrial and systems engineering propelled him into the aerospace industry in the 1990s with manufacturer/defense contractor McDonnell Douglas in California. He later returned to Georgia to work with Lockheed-Martin.
“I got to work on the F-22 program, which was really nice,” Hodell said of his stint at Lockheed. The F-22 Raptor is a stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the U.S. Air Force and noted for its air superiority, ground attack and electronic warfare capabilities.
After seven years, he ventured into a new career, this time in financial services. Hodell, who grew up in Milledgeville, Georgia, worked alongside his father, a financial planner. Over the next decade he often thought about returning to school to study law. When his two children finished high school, he decided to apply.
“I wanted to attend law school to develop expertise in the areas of tax and estate law. Of course, it all hinged on being accepted to law school. Given my age, I wasn’t sure I would be accepted,” he said. “To say I was excited does not begin to capture how I felt when I received my offer of admission.”
He moved to Atlanta to attend classes during the week, returning to Milledgeville most weekends.
“It has been a gift, this opportunity to go back to school,” he said. “It’s never too late to do the thing you want to do, if you really want to do it.”
Hodell was an active student, participating in the Environmental Moot Court competition and the Philip C. Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic. He went to Europe on two Study Abroad trips and served as a research assistant in the Center for Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth. He interned at estate planning firm DearthGalat and for 8th District (Ocmulgee District) Superior Court Judge Alison Burleson (J.D. ’00). He was also a guest speaker in the College of Law’s Wellness Wednesday series, advising students on how to make better financial decisions.
“I had high expectations for law school but it’s turned out even better than I thought it would,” said Hodell, who plans to specialize in tax and estate planning, combining his financial background with his legal education to better help clients.
“I’m very grateful to Georgia State Law. I love the diversity and dedication of the students here. One of the aspects of law school that surprised me is how much of a shared experience it has been, how much everyone at the school has helped me. I’m so thankful and I’m excited about the future.”
Hodell was chosen by a committee of his peers to be the commencement speaker.
“Mike is a nontraditional student who has excelled in diverse areas during law school,” said Kelly Cahill Timmons, associate dean for student affairs and associate professor of law. “On Honors Day, Mike received both the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Custer-Tuggle Award for Excellence in Family Law and the Urban Fellows Research Award, along with an Award for Excellence in Lawyering Advocacy. You might not expect a law student to set the standard in both family law and issues connected to urban growth, but that is one of many reasons we are proud to have Mike as a student.”