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Congratulations to the Class of 2017


“You are now guardians of the rule of law,” Dean Rodney A. Smolla said to the 43rd graduating class of Widener University Delaware Law School at the close of the commencement ceremony held on the afternoon of Saturday, May 20th.

Smolla’s remarks echoed what the Honorable Randy J. Holland had said earlier in the ceremony. The Dean extolled the graduates to think beyond just the sterile rule of law and remember the words of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who wrote, “The law is the witness and external deposit of our moral life.”

Widener University President Julie E. Wollman was on hand to offer a few remarks and confer degrees to the 179 graduates. Additional speakers included Delaware Law Alumni Association President Renae Axelrod ’91 - who welcomed the new graduates to the Alumni Association – and Dean’s Award Winner and class valedictorian Jacob Fedechko.

Eugene McGurk, the Secretary of the Board of Trustees and a member of the Board of Overseers, conferred a posthumous doctor of laws honorary degree to former Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III. Dean Smolla and McGurk discussed Delaware Law’s close affiliation and support of the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which has offices on the campus, and talked about the close relationship the school has enjoyed with the Biden family, including Beau’s father, former United States Vice President and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., who served as an adjunct professor before becoming Vice President.

Biden’s aunt, Valerie Biden Owens, accepted the honorary degree from President Wollman and then offered a few heartfelt remarks to the graduates, quoting Michaelangelo, who said; “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free.”

Dean Smolla announced that the day’s Commencement speaker – recently retired Delaware Supreme Court Justice and longtime Delaware Law adjunct faculty member Randy J. Holland – had been named the Distinguished Jurist in Residence at Delaware Law. 

“I’m deeply honored by this recognition as the Distinguished Jurist in Residence and I’m delighted that I will be able to continue my affiliation with the law school,” Justice Holland said of the honor.

Addressing the students, Holland said, “Attorneys will continue to be considered in the future the guardians of democracy and trusted and respected. Today, forty-five years after being admitted to the bar, I still have stars in my eyes about being a lawyer, and I hope that you always will too.”

The ceremony also included the presentation of the Outstanding Faculty Award to Helen S. Balick Professor in Business Bankruptcy Law Bruce Grohsgal. The award is determined by a vote of the graduating class.