May 28, 2019 | On Friday, May 17, the May Gray weather made way for a spectacular celebration of the Pepperdine Law Class of 2019 at Alumni Park. Nearly 300 students from the juris doctor, Straus Institute, and online Master of Legal Studies programs gathered among friends, family, and the law school community to commemorate this milestone in their lives.
Matthew Myatt opened the ceremony with the invocation, followed by class valedictorian Colten Stanberry, who led the Pledge of Allegiance. Yoori Chung then performed an impressive rendition of the National Anthem.
Student Bar Association President Ava Jahanvash was this year’s student speaker and began her speech with the question all graduates inevitably ask themselves – “What’s next?” Ava said, “I am confident in this class, our class. We have been trained as Pepperdine lawyers to not only be skilled advocates but ministers to the broken.”
President-elect Jim Gash presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Michael Leach, Class of 1986. Leach is the head football Coach at Washington State University where he has received several recognitions of his successful sports team coaching.
“I’ve always thought that going to law school is one of the toughest challenges society has to offer,” Leach said. Leach continued to impart his signature words of coaching motivation that had the audience in fits of laughter.
Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai gave the commencement address and described the moment as one of the greatest honors of his life. Pai looked around at the Pacific panorama of Pepperdine and exclaimed, “I still can’t believe this is really a law school!” He continued to convey a kinship he felt to the Pepperdine community, noting that he, like President Benton, is a proud native of Kansas. Pai also revealed that for a brief moment in the 1990s, he crossed paths with a young lawyer named Jim Gash at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Based on his own law school experience and extensive career, Pai offered this advice to the graduates: Stay in touch with law school friends, embrace the uncertainty, set challenging goals based on what you find personally appealing, and to never forget where you come from. Pai told graduates that with a Pepperdine Law degree, they have been equipped with the faith and the philosophy to help make sense of the world.
Pai was presented as this year’s candidate for Honorary Degree by Professor Babette Boliek, and for his final time as president of Pepperdine University, President Andy Benton led the conferring of the degree.
Finally, Asha Madhukar and Rmani Crawford joined their voices for the Benediction which was a moving and memorable conclusion to the commencement ceremony.
In his parting words, Pai encouraged the graduates to set forth and live the Pepperdine University motto: Freely ye received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). Congratulations, Class of 2019 – you did it!
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