May 15, 2018 – Star Jones inspired 237 University of Houston Law Center graduates to speak truth to power at a commencement ceremony Friday at NRG Arena. The graduating class included 193 J.D. candidates and 44 graduates of the Law Center's LL.M. program.
Jones, a 1986 alumna of the Law Center, is the President of the Professional Diversity Network (PDN), an internet software and services company that develops and operates online networking opportunities for professionals and employers seeking to hire women, minorities, veterans, LGBT and disabled professionals.
"You may have shined during your classes, papers, exams, and mock trials, but now it's time to get serious," Jones said. "It's the time to not just shine for you, but also influence the lives of others using the law as both a sword and shield. It's time for you to transition from brilliant scholars to outstanding and remarkable lawyers, leaders and warriors for justice."
Jones began her legal career as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office before becoming a senior district attorney for New York City. She gained recognition as a legal commentator for the cable network "Court TV" in the early 1990s. She then worked as a legal analyst and correspondent for NBC's Today and NBC Nightly News. She later was a co-host of the ABC talk show "The View" from 1997-2006.
"I've enjoyed the blessings of success, but I'm very clear that it all started with a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Houston Law Center," Jones said.
Jones went on to emphasize that ethics are an important cornerstone for any successful legal career.
"My favorite class in law school was ethics," she said. "At the end of the day, it is all you have as a lawyer. There will be times when you will have to make a call that challenges your ethics, which tests your integrity. Well, I'll tell you what has always guided me: If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."
Dean Leonard M. Baynes offered his praise to the graduates, and noted it was the first class admitted during his deanship.
"On behalf of the entire Law Center community, I want to let you know how much we have enjoyed teaching you," Baynes said. "You have now been empowered with a well-earned degree from one of the top law schools in the country. This fact will never be lost on employers, and it should never be lost on you.
"As you move forward with your careers and your accomplishments, I encourage you to become ethical and effective advocates for your clients, and to dream big and reap the benefits of your commitment and hard work. We are all proud of your accomplishments. I congratulate each of you, and look forward to hearing about all the great things I know you will be doing in the future."
Peter Taaffe '97, vice chairman of the UH System Board of Regents and an attorney at The Buzbee Law Firm, said he considered it a privilege to be able to congratulate a new class of law degree candidates from his alma mater.
"The skills, the education, and the knowledge that I gained here were the foundation for my personal and professional success, just like they will be for yours," Taaffe said. "Rest assured that this university and this college will continue to add value to your diploma during your lifetime.
"Many of you are headed for one of our great Houston law firms. Some of you will work in corporate legal departments or government. Some will start your own law firms. As you leave here, I believe – I expect – you will make a difference in the world."
Christina Marie Beeler served as the J.D. class speaker and urged her classmates to use their legal education to make a positive impact.
"My fellow graduates, your legal education has given you power," Beeler said. "The kind of power that can change lives. It's up to us to choose how we use that power, but I have an hope and an ask for our class. The great civil rights leader Howard Thurman once said, 'Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who come alive.'
"Even if you haven't heard your calling yet, I hope you will figure out what makes you come alive, and spend your life doing that. What I ask of us is that we commit to using the power of our legal education to make a difference."
Lucianna de-Regini-Teixeira Bartley spoke on behalf of the LL.M. class.
"Getting an LL.M. means a renewal of vows in love and dedication to the profession we chose," she said. "It's a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together. Our group could not be more different. We come from over 20 different countries, and we speak over 20 different languages. For as different as we are, there is so much we now share."
Cynthia Mabry '10, president of the UH Law Alumni Association, welcomed graduates to the Law Center's network of alumni and suggested that they stay involved with the Law Center whether being an alumni mentor, volunteering for advocacy programs and other options.
"Remember how alumni affected you and your time at the Law Center and give back when you can," Mabry said. "Stay connected. We have made wonderful friendships at the Law Center that will last a lifetime. The people sitting around you are not only your classmates, but are your future opposing counsels, judges and clients. Go on and be great stewards of the Law Center. So please stay in touch and I hope to see you at some of our alumni events."