The Georgia State University College of Law Class of 2022 came together to celebrate at the Commencement and Hooding Ceremony on May 13 at the Center Parc Credit Union Stadium. The college awarded 194 juris doctor and nine master of laws degrees during the first in-person ceremony since 2019.
“The class of 2022 is unique in so many ways,” College of Law Dean LaVonda Reed said during the ceremony. “You are the only graduating class in the 40-year history of this law school to endure a global pandemic while simultaneously working to obtain a juris doctor or master of laws degree…. You witnessed many other high-profile events in the courtroom, at the ballot box, in the media, and on the streets across the nation. … Your experiences undoubtedly will continue to provide direction and be a constant reminder of your growth, your resilience, your ability, and your courage.”
Student speaker Melissa Davies (J.D. ’22) shared how the turbulent few years trying to navigate a new world of quarantining, online learning, and social distancing amid the stress of the unknown had an impact on the students.
“Our entire lives were flipped upside down multiple times and we had to continuously adapt to those situations,” Davies said.
But their experiences taught them they were resilient and underscored the importance of having support from each other as well as family and friends. Davies, the 2021-2022 Student Bar Association President, is the first person in her family to graduate from college and from law school. She was active in the GSU Law Review, moot court, and pro bono work.
“I know some of us had to work multiple jobs to pay our way through law school, some of us have kids and families that we take care of, and some of us have loved ones that didn’t make it here today,” Davies said. “But regardless of what you had to go through—you did that. You never gave up, even when it didn’t feel worth it.”
“We can literally handle anything that life throws at us now and in the future as attorneys,” she said.
Alumnus Mawuli Davis (J.D. ’02), a founding partner of Davis Bozeman Johnson Law and an influential civil rights attorney, gave the commencement address. He encouraged the graduates to “take flight and catch your dreams.” He talked about the dream of attorneys and students who fought for the integration of higher education. Davis referenced a book about the case, Hunt v. Arnold, in which the author referred to the team that worked to desegregate schools in the south—including Georgia State University in 1962—as the “ground crew.”
Davis, a former naval aviation logistics officer, said a ground crew is vital to preparing the way before the air crew can take flight.
“It was this ‘ground crew’ that allowed me, a kid from Jeffery Manor on the Southside of Chicago, the profound honor of standing on this stage with the first African-American President of Georgia State University and the first African-American Dean of the College of Law,” he said.
To the graduates with “dreams ready to take flight,” Davis offered several pieces of advice:
First, remain connected to the communities that served as your “ground crew.”
Davis said the Georgia State Law community has always been there for him. He shared several examples, including when he couldn’t afford a suit before starting his first job as an attorney, and an alumnus offered him five of his own suits. “It’s not just about what you can give to GSU, it’s also about what you receive,” he said.
Second, Davis cautioned graduates to “resist the easy.” The easy part is to make a living practicing law, but the hard part is to make a life by serving, he said. “We want you to do well financially, but we also need you to do good.”
And finally, remember the joy.
“When you feel the heaviness of our profession, and of life, remember the joy of today,” he said. “Remember why you started, because remembering the joy, the lightness of today will help you take care of yourself mentally and spiritually.”
The faculty hooding team of professors of law Kelly Timmons, Jonathan Todres, and Tanya Washington; Megan Boyd, lecturer of law; J. Antonio DelCampo, President-Elect for the State Bar of Georgia; and Leila Lawlor (J.D. ’95), Director of Academic Success and the LL.M. Program, draped hoods over each graduate to signify the conferral of an advanced degree, as part of the hooding ceremony tradition. The hood’s purple velvet trimming designates the field of law and the blue lining with the crimson chevron symbolizes Georgia State University.
Among the Class of 2022, 88 graduated with honors, and as of May 1, the Class of 2022 also raised more than $7,168 for the Class Gift Scholarship Fund.
Georgia State University President M. Brian Blake said he was honored to take part in his first College of Law commencement as president of GSU and looks forward to seeing the future achievements of the Class of 2022.
“May you achieve success and happiness and success in all of your endeavors – whether it be in private practice, in community outreach, as agents of social justice, in the courtroom, on the bench, or wherever your journey takes you,” Blake said.