More than 140 CUNY School of Law students received their Juris Doctor degrees at the May 16 graduation ceremony.
Sarah Weddington was the 2014 commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree. In 1973, at the age of 26, Weddington successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court. She is believed to be the youngest person to ever win a case before the Court. She was the first woman from Austin to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, the first female General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the first female director of the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations. She also served as Assistant to President Carter, directing his administration’s efforts on women’s issues.
The students chose to present the Outstanding Community Service Award to staff member Richie Rodriguez, the Outstanding Professor Award to Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier and the Distinguished Public Service Award to Richard Celestin (’06). Celestin has worked in the not-for-profit sector in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, serving underrepresented and at-risk youth.
Somalia Samuel (’14) was the Student Speaker. She entered the law school as part of the Pipeline to Justice program. As a first-year student, Somalia was selected to participate in the New York City Bar Association’s Diversity Fellowship. She also interned at the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem, where she worked with seasoned public defenders to provide holistic defense to indigent persons accused of crimes. In her third year, she represented indigent clients charged with misdemeanors in Queens Criminal Court through the Criminal Defense Clinic, led by Professor Steve Zeidman. She was a Thurgood Marshall Fellow at the New York City Bar Association, serving on the Committee on Civil Rights and working in the City Bar Justice Center’s Bankruptcy project and Immigrant Women and Children project. Next, she will work as a Bertha Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in the Government and Racial Justice docket.
In her speech, Somalia pointed out some “side effects” of attending law school, amusing the audience. But she also inspired the guests to keep pursuing social justice.