Alexander Hamilton, Edward Swyer Awarded Honorary Law Degrees

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Alexander Hamilton, posthumously, and Edward P. Swyer were awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees at Albany Law School’s 167th Commencement on May 18, 2018.

One of the nation’s founders, an author of the Federalist Papers, the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and a founding member of a society that was instrumental in abolishing slavery in New York, Hamilton was also a talented and highly sought after lawyer who left government service to engage in private practice. He studied law and prepared for the bar examination in Albany, at a time when self-study and apprenticeship were the path to a legal career.

Watch the full ceremony here

Hamilton was awarded the degree in recognition of his legal study and work in the Albany region, as well as his contribution to the United States’ enduring Constitution and system of government.

“He was a hard worker, a brilliant writer. He was smart, talented, and scrappy. In fact he sounds like someone who would fit perfectly with you, the Class of 2018,” said President and Dean Alicia Ouellette.

Hamilton, played by Jean-Remy Monnay of the Soul Rebel Performance Troupe, told the class, “Albany Law School? A school that teaches law? That is a novel thing! … Stay with it, persevere, you will find that the law is relevant and important, no matter in which century you live.”

Douglas Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s fifth great-grandson, accepted the degree, calling Albany Law School the most fitting school for the degree, given that Albany was his place of study and a key city for his practice.

Dean Ouellette then presented an honorary degree to Edward Swyer, President of the Swyer Companies, who has been an important part of the law school community since the 1980s, when his father built the Shaffer Law Library. For more than 20 years he has assisted in developing Albany Law School's Lewis A. Swyer Academic Success Program, which provides additional academic support for first-year law students. He has also helped with the clinics that serve domestic violence victims.

“We honor Mr. Swyer today for far more than his business success,” Dean Ouellette said. “Mr. Swyer is committed to creating opportunities for others to achieve the kind of success that he has achieved. He makes our community stronger by finding creative ways to support individuals who—like many members of the Class of 2018—are first in their families to get an education, first to launch a business, and quick to give back to their communities.”

Most recently Swyer and The Swyer Family Foundation helped establish the Community Development Clinic, where students provide legal help to early stage start-up businesses and community organizations. In the past year alone, the clinic helped more than 90 businesses and business owners.

“Ed Swyer changes lives,” Dean Ouellette said. “Ed Swyer creates opportunities. And he has done just that at Albany Law School. … He believes in the power of law, and the ways in which we can build and strengthen a community—and give individuals opportunities to grow and thrive—by providing free legal services, help with a growing business, and wise mentorship.”

“The Community Development Clinic’s potential to transform our community for the better is exponential,” she added.

Swyer was awarded the degree in recognition of his inspirational leadership in business, development of the community, and commitment to Albany Law School.

Calling the Class of 2018 his classmates, he noted, "The law school library was my father’s crown jewel of buidings. . . .When I received the invitation that the trustees voted to honor me, I stared at it in disbelief. I am humbled by this."