Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Dean Timothy Fisher Speech

Dean Timothy Fisher Speech


It is now my pleasure to introduce the
Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law, Timothy Fisher. Thank you, Dean Chill. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the
93rd Commencement of the University of Connecticut School of Law. We’re graced by the presence of many distinguished guests this morning, and
I’d like to introduce and welcome those seated with me on the platform. In the
back row—on your right—are Mr. Vincent P. Pace: JD, Class of 1998, LLM, Class of 2009, and President of the University of Connecticut School of Law
Alumni Association. Mr. Thomas D. Ritter, Class of 1977, Vice Chairman of the University of Connecticut Board of
Trustees. Mr. Richard T. Carbray, Jr., Trustee of the University of Connecticut. Professor Jeremy McClain, Associate Professor of Law, Cornelius J. Scanlon Research Scholar, and recipient of the Perry Zirkel Class of ’76 Distinguished Teaching
Award. Ms. Lisa Darr Rodino, Registrar, and Mr. Robert Birmingham, Professor of
Law, and Mace-bearer. In the front row, from your right, Mr. Paul Chill, Class of
1985, Associate Dean for Clinical and Experiential Education,
Clinical Professor of Law and commencement marshal. Mr. Lawrence D. McHugh, Chair of the
University of Connecticut Board of Trustees. Dr. Susan Herbst, President of the
University of Connecticut. The Honorable Christopher F. Droney, Judge of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, our distinguished speaker
for today’s ceremony, and recipient of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris
causa. And, Ms. Darcy Kirk, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Dean
for Library and Technology, Professor of Law and law marshal. Welcome, Class of 2016. What a wonderful day. You did it. You’ve
worked hard and you’ve earned this moment, and today we celebrate you for
everything you’ve done to get here. But it’s not just you who deserve praise—
your families, your partners, your friends have all supported you through
the trying times that you’ve traversed. You and we owe them a tremendous thanks for making it possible for you to be here today. So consider all that you’ve been through—the shock and awe of first semester, the late nights in the library, the cold
calls in class, but look what you have to show for it. You’ve mastered a new way of thinking,
and an ability to explain solutions to complex problems with clarity and
conviction. So now you’re ready to make a difference
in the world, and just think the things you’ve done already. You’ve taught students in the Hartford
high schools. You’ve resolved tax problems for
low-income families. You’ve prepared estate plans for
senior citizens, represented nonprofits in their business deals, conducted food drives for refugee families. You counseled rape victims and
mediated employment discrimination disputes. You have obtained patents and
trademarks for local inventors. You conducted a water drive for the people
of Flint, Michigan. You’ve clerked for judges. You’ve staffed
the legislature and state agencies. You’ve conducted fundraising for student
service projects. You’ve written a new zoning ordinance for the City of
Hartford and you spent a week in a federal detention center helping
immigrants facing deportation to places that put their lives at risk. What an amazing set of accomplishments
and that’s beyond just the work inside your classrooms. Well you’re going to continue this great
tradition of service in your careers, which is a crucial part of what it means
to be a lawyer: to give a voice to the powerless. Because the rule of law
cannot obtain its full meaning unless it’s available to the weak and
vulnerable, just as it is to the rich and the
powerful. We hope that as you leave this campus you’ll keep these principles
close to your hearts. So what is it that makes this such a great profession? Not just the pay. Not just the prestige,
although prestige it will bring you. Rather, it is because when we think about the
places on earth that are the worst places and the best places to live, we see that the difference between them
is the law. Whether the law is present and working, and whether it is making
those places both safe and fair. So there’s no limit to what you
can do with what you’ve learned here, and there’s no better investment of time and
money that you’ll ever make in your work lives. And this is possible because
during your time with us you’ve transformed yourselves from students
into professionals. Before you arrived, you got ahead mostly by learning what
teachers told you. But here at the Law School, you’ve learned to think critically for
yourselves. And where you’re heading, that is the value that you will bring.
For clients won’t need you when the answers to their problems are
straightforward. They’ll come to you when the simple
answers don’t solve their problems. That’s when your UConn Law School
education will pay its dividends. And this is especially true for those of you who
come to UConn from countries far away. We required not only that you learn
new laws and work in a new language, but also, in what has for most of you
been a very different classroom culture. Where it’s not only allowed, but
encouraged, to ask challenging questions of the professor, and you’re graded not
and whether you memorized your professor’s opinions, but rather on
whether you can think critically for yourself as you navigate a complex
problem. All of you will be taking these new
modes of learning with you when you leave. They will serve you well in this ever-more global community and how fortunate that you all have been to be able to
build your network of international friends and colleagues here in these
classrooms. The path ahead won’t be easy. There will be moments, usually
unannounced, that will test your character. Those moments, and the way you handle them, will be the markers by which others most remember you. Take heed when those moments come. The power that the law invests in you is seductive. For in the process of making you experts in
giving reasons, we’ve also made you experts in rationalization—using verbal
skill and clever argument to justify conduct or position. You’ll be pressed, of course, to provide
these rationalizations for your clients, but more dangerously, you’ll feel a
powerful urge to use them to excuse your own conduct. These moments
are certain to come, and you’ll be vulnerable to them. Please resist. Each time you succumb to
an ethical shortcut, you diminish yourself a bit more, and this is the
great risk that you’ve assumed in acquiring the power that you’ve acquired
here. You must count on your family and close
friends to keep you grounded, but for now, you should all revel in a moment, for a
moment, in your accomplishments. Class of 2016, we salute you and we congratulate you.
For we have enjoyed you tremendously and we hope you’ve enjoyed us. Not just the
teachers who have taught you so much, but the staff who have cared for you in so
many ways that you know and so many others that you couldn’t even see. Let me
pause here to give a special thanks to the facilities team and their supporting
staff. It is thanks to them that we have this
beautiful campus and this magnificent event today. And also to the staff team that worked
so tirelessly over the months up to today to make possible this complex
choreographed ceremony. Donna Gionfriddo, Deb King, Lisa Rodino
and Rosa Serrano. Thank you so much guys. I also want to acknowledge several
members of our outstanding faculty who are retiring this year. Robert Whitman, Lew Kurlantzick, Rick Kay, and Jim Stark. You four have given us over 170 years of combined years of teaching, guiding generations of students,
creating scholarship, and other work that has built our law school’s
reputation, nationally and internationally. And in particular, I want
to acknowledge Professor Robert Whitman, who has completed 50 years on our
faculty. Thank you. Thank you Bob for everything you’ve done
for us and our students over the years. Students, we’re gonna miss you. Remember, stay in
touch with us. That’ll be easier now because you have
elected a class secretary. Hats off to Eleni Koutroumanis. Come back. Share your insights and
experiences with us, for you will always be part of our community. And in fact,
this is just the start of our relationship. That’s why we call it commencement. You’ve received this education thanks to the generosity of others who
provided this campus and this community of scholars and teachers for you. Your chance is coming now to make a
difference. To pay it forward to the next generation. Each of you and your own way. So, Class of
2016, the faculty of the University of
Connecticut School of Law and I acknowledge and honor the hard work
you’ve done to reach this moment. We wish you all the best in the wonderful days and years ahead.

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