Law school honors 112 graduates


WMU-Cooley Master of Laws graduates (seated, left to right) Fan Yong Jeon, Tax Law; Cassandra Sundblad, Tax Law; and Jonathan Russell, Homeland and National Security Law; with (standing, left to right) WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc, Director of LL.M. in Insurance Law Lisa DeMoss, Professor Dan Sheaffer, and Associate Dean and Director of LL.M. in Homeland and National Security Law Michael McDaniel.

– Photos courtesy of WMU-Cooley

WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc (left), with WMU-Cooley graduate Joy Fossel, who presented the keynote at the law school’s May 20 graduation.

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School presented 98 Juris Doctor and 14 Master of Laws degrees to graduates during the law school’s commencement ceremony for the Michigan campuses (Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids, and Lansing) at the Michigan State Auditorium on Sunday, May 20.

During the ceremony, Kyona McGhee, who was chosen by her classmates, provided the valedictory remarks and Elizabeth Joy Fossel, Of Counsel at Varnum Attorneys at Law in Grand Rapids, provided the keynote. Additionally, WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc presented Ameer Alkhalidi with the President’s Achievement Award and Cody J. Brooks with the James E. Burns Memorial Award for graduating summa cum laude.

McGhee spoke to her fellow graduates about Pauli Murray, a 1944 Howard School of Law student and the only female in her class, who wagered a $10 bet with a professor that Plessy v. Ferguson would be overturned in 25 years. McGhee noted even though Murray’s classmates and professor disagreed with her, she still chose to write her final law school paper on how Plessy v. Ferguson could be overturned, a paper that was used as the  foundation of the Supreme Court argument in Brown v. Board of Education by then-lawyer Thurgood Marshall.

“Graduates, you too, may have ideas that lack support. You too, may have legislation that you want enacted or laws that you want overturned,” said McGhee. “Nonetheless, no matter if you have to stand alone or in a crowd; as a woman, minority, poor, or all three; never stop fighting for the things that set your soul on fire. Because just like Pauli, yesterday we were all law students but today you are a history maker.”

During her keynote, Fossel, herself a WMU-Cooley graduate, spoke about pride, openness, engagement, and hope. She encouraged the graduates to be proud of themselves and their law school.

“This is a day to celebrate your accomplishments. Today is a culmination of your hard work, perseverance, your grit, and determination. What started as a dream to be a lawyer, all of you will leave here today with Juris Doctor behind your name,” said Fossel.

Speaking about reasons individuals may have chosen to attend WMU-Cooley, including non-traditional students, Fossel asked the graduates to visualize the diversity among them.

Listing the varying professions of those earning their degrees, Fossel said, “There are former paralegals, school principals, teachers, members of the military, librarians, bankers, realtors, police officers, and even a professional hockey player. Graduates range in age from 24 to 58 years old, representing 22 states and three countries.”

Each class at WMU-Cooley bears the name of a distinguished member of the legal profession. The spring 2018 graduating class is named after Justice Samuel Nelson. Nelson served the New York Supreme Court for six years in the 1830s before his U.S. Supreme Court appointment.


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