New York Chief Judge Rowan D. Wilson Delivers Inspiring Commencement Address at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

May 21, 2024
Judge Rowan D. Wilson

Chief Judge Wilson: “Put honesty first; Remember compassion; Help those who cannot afford your assistance.”

QUEENS, NEW YORK (May 20, 2024) — Chief Judge Rowan D. Wilson of the New York State Court of Appeals delivered Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University’s 46th commencement ceremony address to graduates at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York.

Judge Wilson also received the Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, the highest honor conferred by the Law School, recognizing his lifelong contributions to public service and the legal profession.

In a speech peppered with lawyer jokes that lightheartedly emphasized the often poor public perception of lawyers, Chief Judge Wilson challenged students to do their part to build a reputation of trustworthiness.

“I encourage you to keep in mind the following three propositions as you wind your way through your lives in the law: One: Put honesty first, whether you are interacting with courts, clients, adversaries or colleagues. Two: Remember that the historical core of your profession is compassion, not craftiness. Three: Devote some meaningful measure of your time to helping those who cannot afford your assistance, but who desperately need it,” Chief Judge Wilson said.

Chief Judge Wilson is the first person of color to lead the Court of Appeals, New York state’s highest court, located in Albany. As Chief Judge, he is responsible for the administration of the entire New York’s Unified Court System, which has 16,000 employees, a $3 billion budget, and administers justice to a population of nearly 20 million residents.

Haub Law Dean Horace E. Anderson Jr. presided over the commencement ceremony. “It is not just significant that Judge Wilson is New York’s highest-ranking judge, nor that he has led a trailblazing career as a man who has broken barriers and opened doors for others underrepresented in the legal field,” said Dean Anderson during his address. “But perhaps even more significantly, Judge Wilson’s career and character, embody so many of the values that we strive for at Haub Law.”

Dean Anderson pointed to the Law School’s commitment to improving Access to Justice through a growing number of pipeline and pathway programs for youth, through the work of its clinics and centers, including the new Sustainable Business Hub and the new Legal Hand Call-In Center, and pro-bono projects in partnership with community and local government -- all supported by students.

“You – our students – have been instrumental in these programs, providing mentorship and an example of a future in law,” said Dean Anderson.

Delivering the commencement opening address was Pace University President Marvin Krislov, who is also a lawyer. He told students that “the law is not merely a profession but a calling, a calling to defend the rights and liberties of all individuals.”

“You graduates possess the power to effect enduring change through your commitment to justice, advocacy and the rule of law,” he said.

Pace University Trustee Liliane A. Haub and Dean Emerita Michelle S. Simon joined Dean Anderson to present the honorary degree to Chief Judge Wilson, in recognition of his dedication to the law, commitment to public service, and inspiring example to others.

During the ceremony, 252 students received JD degrees, 10 received Master of Laws in Comparative Legal Studies, 7 received Master of Laws in Environmental Law, and 1 received a Doctor of Juridical Science degree. This includes 64 students who completed Advanced Certificates and four students who graduated with an additional joint degree from the Yale School of the Environment. Of particular note are 25 part-time students who completed their studies while juggling the demands of careers, families and personal commitments.

SJD and LLM graduates were hooded by Associate Dean and Professor of Environment Law Jason Czarnezki. JD graduates were hooded by University Distinguished Professor Bridget J. Crawford, and Adjunct Professors Jared J. Hatcliffe and Anton Pribysh, the three of whom were selected by the Class of 2024 as recipients of this year’s Barbara C. Salken Outstanding Professor of the Year Award. Graduates also awarded the Departmental Award for Excellence to the Office of the Registrar.

Daniel von Staats, President of the Student Bar Association, delivered the student address.

Three members of the Class of 2024 also received the prestigious Dean’s Award: Amanda Dinkin, JD; Ellie Holleran Taranto, Flex JD; and Isabella Mazzei, LLM.

Watch Chief Judge Wilson’s commencement address

About Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law offers JD and Masters of Law degrees in both Environmental and International Law, as well as a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in Environmental Law. The school, housed on the University’s campus in White Plains, N.Y., opened its doors in 1976 and has more than 10,000 alumni around the world. The school maintains a unique philosophy and approach to legal education that strikes an important balance between practice and theory. Haub Law launched its Environmental Law Program in 1978, and it has long been ranked among the world’s leading university programs, with a current #1 ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

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