Former Illinois Gov. Thompson delivers address at law commencement, accepts honorary degree

NIU Law Dean Jennifer Rosato (left) and Cherilyn Murer (’78), chair of the NIU Board of Trustees, present Gov. James Thompson with an honorary Doctorate of Law degree during NIU Law’s commencement ceremony. Thompson also was featured as the commencement speaker.
NIU Law Dean Jennifer Rosato (left) and Cherilyn Murer (’78), chair of the NIU Board of Trustees, present Gov. James Thompson with an honorary Doctorate of Law degree during NIU Law’s commencement ceremony. Thompson also was featured as the commencement speaker.

The NIU College of Law conferred 116 graduates with juris doctorate degrees Saturday, May 25, at its commencement exercises at the Convocation Center.

Former Illinois Gov. James Thompson gave the commencement address and received an honorary degree from the law school for his distinguished record of achievement in law and public service.

During his address, Thompson detailed the importance of the formative experiences he had during his distinguished and highly regarded legal and political career.

He discussed his close associations with former and current NIU faculty, which he lauded as some of the finest he has known. He also recalled his efforts in helping NIU acquire the College of Law more than 30 years ago by signing the legislation to finalize the deal.

Thompson encouraged the new graduates to take pride in their degrees and search for careers feeling secure in their foundation. “Your generation is no doubt the smartest, and highly trained. If you take nothing else but passion for law and willingness to work hard, you will succeed,” he said.

He continued to challenge the students by emphasizing the unique advantages afforded them by graduating in the modern era of legal education, exhorting them to find opportunities to learn from their work, and sharpening their skills through pro bono and volunteer opportunities.

Lenny Mandell
Lenny Mandell

Cherilyn Murer, chair of the NIU Board of Trustees and a 1978 alumna of the College of Law, along with Dean Jennifer Rosato presented Thompson with the honorary Doctor of Law degree during the ceremony.

“His lifelong commitment to public service serves as a model for our community, especially our students,” Rosato said. “He also embodies the core values of the NIU College of Law, including public service, leadership and professionalism.”

Other highlights from the ceremony included inspirational messages from Rosato, Professor of the Year Dan Reynolds and class speaker Jeffrey Zanchelli.

A fitting tribute was also paid to Associate Dean Lenny Mandell, who is retiring after 32 years of service. Having served as coordinator of the law school’s successful internal moot court competition since its inception in 1982, the competition was renamed as the Lenny B. Mandell Moot Court Competition.

The ceremony concluded with a reception, where the graduates and their guests continued the celebration of their achievements.

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