May 17, 2021 - The University of Houston Law Center Class of 2021 was celebrated for overcoming societal obstacles while in the pursuit of a legal career during a socially-distanced, in-person convocation ceremony on Sunday at TDECU stadium. The ceremony was also livestreamed to a crowd of approximately 500 people. Among the graduates were 218 J.D. recipients and 54 LL.M.s, with some receiving both degrees.
"Graduates, you are making history as the class who has shown its resilience in rising to the challenges of our day," said Dean Leonard M. Baynes. "Over the course of the past 15 months during the pursuit of a legal education, you have exhibited the qualities necessary for success: tenacity, intellectual rigor, and focus. Yet relying on our intellect alone is not enough. Our times call for kindness, compassion and understanding.
"In a country and state with so many people of so many backgrounds, it is important for us to think about each other before we act. Lawyers lead and have been at the forefront of civil rights, women's rights, marriage equality, immigration reform, tort reform, tax reform and deregulation. Ultimately as lawyers, you will seek justice for your client whoever he, she, or they may be."
The Hon. Alvaro De la Cruz Jr., a student regent and 2021 graduate of the University of Houston-Victoria, encouraged graduates to take pride in their journey and the education they received.
"You’ve developed resilience to overcome obstacles that will take you to even greater levels in your personal life and career," he said. "That does not go without notice. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the world as graduates and alumni of the University of Houston. I know you will succeed."
As a sign of the times in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional speakers delivered their speeches through the Law Center’s first-ever video wall.
Chelsea Klumpp, the speaker for the J.D. class, applauded the effort it took for members of the Class of 2021 to complete their legal education.
"It goes without saying that this year and this experience has been nothing like what we thought it was going to be when we started law school," Klumpp said. "I want to give shine to the very incredible fact that we have made it. We are graduating. Any time a class graduates from law school it is something commendable, because as we all know law school is hard for a lot of different reasons. It's something to be proud of that we are here. Our class rose to the occasion.
The LL.M. class speaker was Brett Dyer Salazar, who commended his classmates for being a tight-knit group amidst a virtual learning experience.
"It was very exciting to know there was a team supporting us, and the great classmates I met," Salazar said. "Despite the pandemic context, I feel like we became a family - a great, diverse family with traditions from Pakistan, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Jordan, Colombia and other countries. It is this diversity that in my opinion, made us different, unique and better. I admire the cooperation we had among us despite the different points of view that we are always going to have as lawyers."
Graduates selected Professor Meredith J. Duncan, the George Butler Research Professor of Law, as the faculty speaker. She encouraged to always be mindful of why they chose to attend law school
"You didn't just survive law school, you thrived through law school," Duncan said. "I have great hope in our legal profession because in large you're joining us.
"Don't ever forget what's most important. Don't forget why you came to law school, who you came to law school for. Never forget that anything is possible for you now. One of the best lessons of law school is that you have taught yourself, convincingly so, that you can learn anything. If you can learn anything, the sky is the limit."
Graduates were also embraced into the Law Center’s network of alumni.
"Let me welcome you with open arms to joining your Law Alumni Association," said UH Law Alumni President Victor Wright via video. "We look forward with great excitement and anticipation to you joining us to taking the Law Center to even greater heights."Click here for a video wall with messages from various members of the Law Center community celebrating the Class of 2021.