“I encourage you to allow yourself the grace to seek out a place where you can do what you really want to do, and what you do best,” Attorney General of Colorado Cynthia H. Coffman (J.D. ’91) said to graduates at the 2018 Commencement and Hooding Ceremony on May 11.
Georgia State Law awarded 183 juris doctor and 18 master of laws degrees during the ceremony.
“I want to talk you about what you are taking with you as a graduate of Georgia State University,” Coffman said. “You are at one of those rare times when you have the ability to shape what you become, your professional responsibility and your contribution as a lawyer.”
Coffman said the Class of 2018 will walk out of graduation with “an exceptional foundational legal education and with the technical skills from hands on learning that have prepared you for whatever comes next. I promise you are ready for this.”
She shared the story of her first career detour shortly after graduating from Georgia State Law. She was working in the Georgia attorney general’s office when a mentor offered her an opportunity to work for the Olympic Committee in 1996.
“He said we’ll figure out what you’re good at and we’ll put you to work doing it. A few months later I was employed in the finance and management services for the Olympic Committee. We figured out what I was good at and I went to work getting better at it.”
After the bomb in Centennial Park during the Olympics, Coffman worked with the victims. That experience affected her. “I had the epiphany that life is short and quite unpredictable, and I better take some more chances and have more adventures.”
She moved to Colorado, a place she always wanted to live. “But I took with me my identity as a Georgia State lawyer and [my mentor’s] management philosophy. Both have been invaluable to me,” she said.
“You now have the chance to play to your strengths personally and professionally. That includes finding something that is fulfilling, that makes you happy,” she said to the graduates.
Coffman also encourage the graduates to use their gifts and talents give back.
“Engagement with community epitomizes and distinguishes the Georgia State way. I urge each of you to further Georgia State’s legacy and to enrich your own lives by volunteering and bettering your own community. Serve the people around you in a way that honors your profession and your place in it,” she said.
Mike Hodell (J.D. ’18) was the student speaker. Although he is a nontraditional student who had a 27-year career before law school, Hodell found he is also similar to most other law students. “I am a perfectionist. I love to learn. Most of all, I want to make a difference, and I want to make a difference helping others. What I have learned is we are all traditional and nontraditional, just in different ways. We all have a different story, and we all took a different path to get here.”
His doubts about entering law school at his age evaporated once he got to know his classmates. “You believed in me more than I often believed in myself. When you came up to me after I had been called on in class and told me that I had done a good job, even though I knew I had not, or when you explained something to me that I did not understand, or when you invited me to go to lunch, or when you simply stopped to talk in the hall, you helped me more than you will ever know,” he said.
Hodell told his classmates to continue helping others, as they did him.
“We are at our best when we help others become their very best. It may be in our role as a lawyer, but it may be in our role as a spouse, a co-worker, a neighbor, or a volunteer. No matter our role, the opportunity is the same—to make a difference in the lives of others and those around them. It is my promise to help others become their very best just as you helped me become my very best.”
The faculty hooding team of Jessica Gabel Cino, associate dean for academic affairs; Mary Radford, professor of law; Roy M. Sobelson, professor of law; Corneill Stephens, professor of law and Kelly Cahill Timmons, associate dean for student affairs, draped hoods over each graduate to signify the conferral of an advanced degree, as part of the hooding ceremony tradition. The deep purple hoods indicate legal study, with the blue and red accents representing Georgia State University.
Among the Class of 2018, 44 graduated with pro bono distinction, donating more than 11,000 hours of legal counsel and service. Eighty graduated with academic honors. As of May 1, the Class of 2018 also raised more than $8,000 for the Class Gift Scholarship Fund, with a participation rate of 69 percent.