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News Posted on May 21, 2019

King Hall's Class of 2019 celebrates commencement!

Judge Troy L. Nunley, left, and Dean Kevin R. Johnson

Members of the class of 2019 celebrate their commencement

The 51st UC Davis School of Law commencement, held Saturday, May 18 at the Mondavi Center, celebrated the achievements of the more than 200 students composing the J.D. and LL.M. classes of 2019.

“The class of 2019 is remarkable,” Dean Kevin R. Johnson, the event’s emcee, told the assembled graduates and their friends and family members in the audience. “It takes a unique combination of intellect, curiosity and resilience to graduate from UC Davis School of Law.”

The class of 2019 was unlike any class before it, Johnson said. Shortly after these students entered King Hall in 2016, “the November elections brought change to Washington, D.C.,” Johnson pointed out. “Terms like ‘redacted’ and ‘obstruction’ are (now) back in the news, for the first time since King Hall’s early days during Watergate.”

“It has never been more important to know the law,” Johnson continued. “The class of 2019, with the help of an excellent faculty, now possesses powerful legal knowledge.”

Johnson commended the class’ commitment to public service. Its members racked up more than 42,000 public service hours; students traveled to Texas to help detained immigrant children, and to Colorado, to help naturalize immigrants.

United States District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley, in his keynote address, spoke of his many positive interactions with King Hall students over the years. Nunley’s daughter Cimone is a member of the King Hall class of 2018, and Nunley has brought in UC Davis Law students to be clerks and externs.

“Each time I meet with you, I come away impressed with your preparedness, knowledge, vision, inquisitive natures, and hopefulness,” Nunley said.

Going forward, “your success is not necessarily dependent upon your title, salary, or economics,” Nunley told the graduates. “It’s certainly not measured by the type of law you practice. Success is really measured by your ability to see a goal through to its conclusion.”

Success also can be gauged by what one gives back to society, he said. The class of 2019 can “enhance the practice of law by focusing on ways to improve the legal system,” he said. “Some of the things you can work on in that regard are access to justice, fairness, quality of justice, diversity, and service to the public.”

UC Davis Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, on hand to confer degrees and offer remarks, cited the Aesop’s fable of the ants and the grasshopper in encouraging members of the class of 2019 to act “irresponsibly” on occasion. Such actions run counter to the highly responsible behavior these students exhibited on the way to obtaining J.D. degrees, Hexter acknowledged. But irresponsibility can work well, he argued, when practiced in moderation.

“As for your career – which you have been so careful to prepare for - some measured irresponsibility may be the rocket that takes you to great heights,” Hexter said. “Some of history’s most influential thinkers fell short of our modern ideal of the responsible worker.” Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, for example, only worked five hours a day.

Reza Harris ’19, recipient of the Dean’s Merit Scholarship, an editor for the UC Davis Law Review and the co-creator of a new King Hall mural depicting Dr. King, was the student speaker. Professor Aaron Tang was the faculty speaker.

Lauren Neuhaus ’19 received the Law School Medal honoring the highest academic achievement among J.D. candidates. Professors William Dodge and Clay Tanaka served as faculty marshals, and Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Hollis Kulwin, wrapping up her 17-year career at UC Davis School of Law, announced the graduates’ names.

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