Albany Law School will be closed today until 4pm due to the weather.
For Albany Law School's Class of 2017, it was a day of inspiration and celebration.
Before crossing the stage Friday, May 19 at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., approximately 110 graduates heard from keynote speaker David McCraw '92, vice president and deputy general counsel for the New York Times.
"Being a graduate of Albany Law School means ... being the kind of lawyer people count on," said McCraw, who serves as the Times' top newsroom lawyer and is among the nation's most prolific litigators of freedom-of-information cases. "I have always prided myself on being that kind of lawyer, an Albany lawyer—a lawyer who shows up, who keeps trying, who wakes up the next morning trying to figure out why whatever he did yesterday didn’t work and what he can do today to make it a happen. That was something I learned at Albany Law School."
McCraw—speaking seriously and often humorously—recalled the lessons he learned during his 15 years at the New York Times Company, where he has been the lawyer behind virtually every major investigative and political story during that period and heads up the newspaper's crisis management team when reporters run into peril while on assignment abroad. He also spoke of his October 2016 letter to the lawyer of then-candidate Donald Trump defending the Times' right to publish a story—one of the lasting artifacts of the presidential campaign. "Anything can happen," McCraw said, stressing the importance of courage and believing in oneself.
Full Text: David McCraw's Commencement Address
McCraw also talked about hitting a roadblock 17 years ago when applying to the New York Daily News. Instead of accepting the decision, he directly contacted the Daily News' hiring legal counsel, made his case, and got the job. "A total Albany move," he said.
Concluding, he told the Class of 2017, "Not just anything happened today. Something very specific and very special happened: You made it. Welcome to my world. I'm glad to have you."
President and Dean Alicia Ouellette also offered encouraging words.
"You will use your degree to do amazing things," Dean Ouellette said. "You are off to jobs in public service, in big and small law firms, in the Senate, in prosecutors' offices and public defenders' offices, in the financial industry, banks, and health organizations. You are off to make change in the world, work for justice, and make a difference in the lives of others."
"Today is about celebrating accomplishments. Getting to this moment is a tremendous achievement," she added. "You should feel confident about moving into the next stage."
Other highlights included:
• After introducing national anthem singer Brenda Baddam '17, Daniel Nolan '78 called to order his fourth and final Commencement as Chair of the Board of Trustees. "Take a look around you," he said. "Because you too will remember this day for a long time." Dean Ouellette said of Chair Nolan, "He has been a tremendous leader. We are grateful for his service, and we are going to miss him."
• An honorary Doctor of Laws degree was conferred on the Honorable Mae A. D'Agostino, United States District Judge for the Northern District of New York, in recognition of her distinguished career as an attorney and federal judge, as well as her dedication and service to Albany Law School. "This honorary degree means everything to me," said Judge D'Agostino, who was born and raised in Albany and is an Adjunct Professor at Albany Law School. "You are about to embark on what I believe to be the greatest career ever. ... Graduates, your time has come." A college athlete, Judge D'Agostino was also surprised with an official Albany Law basketball.
• Claire Gutekunst, outgoing president of the New York State Bar Association, was presented with the 2017 Dean's Medal for exemplary service to the legal profession and fostering the connection between NYSBA and Albany Law School. "At the State Bar, we call Albany Law our 'hometown law school," she said. "We have a great partnership," Addressing the graduates, Gutekunst added: "When I look at you, I see the future of the profession that I love. And that future is bright."
Annual faculty awards were presented to: Professor Ray Brescia for Excellence in Scholarship; Professor Christine Sgarlata Chung for Excellence in Teaching; and Professor Sarah Rogerson for Excellence in Service.
• Four members of the faculty presented doctoral hoods to graduates: Professor Ray Brescia, who is being promoted to Professor of Law; Professor Stephen Gottlieb, who is retiring from the law school after nearly four decades of dedicated teaching and service; Professor Keith Hirokawa, who is being promoted to Professor of Law; and Professor Sarah Rogerson, who is being promoted to Clinical Professor of Law with tenure.
• Daniel Goldfinger, president of the Class of 2017, presented the Friend of the Class award to Professor Patricia Reyhan. He also announced the class gift of two stations in the foyer to power laptops and other portable electronics.
Following tradition, the ceremony ended with National Alumni Association President Patrick Jordan '02 welcoming the Class of 2017 as the newest members of Albany Law School's alumni community.