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Law Center Speaker Talks to Class of 2012 about Confronting Injustice

May 20, 2012 – Gay McDougall, a Georgetown law professor and former U.N. independent expert on minority issues, asked this year’s Law Center graduates what the responsibility of lawyers would be in an “unjust society.”   

“For lawyers such as Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley … and others who eventually became the NAACP Defense Fund, the answer was that they must use their legal skills … to confront injustice,” said McDougall during the Law Center’s Sunday afternoon commencement ceremony.

McDougall spoke on behalf of her late husband, John Payton, who received a posthumous honorary degree from Georgetown for his human rights work. Payton, who died this past March, served as president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“The result [of the Legal Defense Fund’s] work was a ground-breaking series of cases that confronted the systems of racial segregation and oppression that existed [during the Jim Crow era in South],” McDougall said.

While McDougall said tremendous progress has been made, but much more remains to be done.

“Our public schools, our economy, our criminal justice system all remain structurally disfigured by race and ethnicity,” she said. “Black people are incarcerated at nine times the rate of white people for drug use — though the rate of drug use is the same. Our prisons have become warehouses for the failures of our public education system.” 

McDougall, who received an honorary degree from Georgetown in 2006, said her husband would have been “deeply honored” to receive his honor.

“He was a man of great intelligence, integrity, commitment and character, and he was very focused on the role that lawyers can and must play to make our society here and globally one of justice and equality for all people,” she said.

The Law Center also gave an honorary degree during Sunday’s ceremony to Arthur J. Gajarsa (L’67), a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. 

More than 1,000 students were graduated from the Law Center on Sunday.

New law graduates said they will miss Georgetown but are looking forward to putting what they learned into practice.

Mike Folger (L’12) will work in the New York office of Skadden Arps on antitrust and anti-competition matters. He said he won’t forget the friends he made at Georgetown.

“I loved the people I went to class with,” he said. “I met a lot of my best friends here. I could not have enjoyed my three years here more.”

Rea Gacad (L’12), who is moving back to California, will begin a two-year fellowship with Catholic Charities, fulfilling a dream of doing public interest work.

Her mother, Marissa Gacad said she was proud of her daughter.

“It’s exciting,” the mother said. “She’s ready to tackle the world.”

Med School Speaker: There are Still Secrets to Discover

Stay curious, one of two speakers at Sunday’s School of Medicine commencement told the more than 190 graduates at a ceremony in Warner Theatre.

“Realize that despite all that you have learned about the human body, it remains, by and large, a mysterious thing, with many secrets yet to be discovered,” said Dr. Michael Zasloff of Georgetown’s department of surgery. “Some of you will make those discoveries and possibly change the way we now practice medicine."

Zasloff, who received an honorary degree at the ceremony, is an internationally recognized immunologist and scholar of innate immunity at Georgetown’s Surgical Immunology Transplant Institute.

Georgetown also gave an honorary degree to Dr. Ross Fletcher, chief of staff at Washington DC VA Medical Center.

Residencies are the next step for many of the school’s graduates, including Lauren Blatt (C’08, M’12).

“I am extremely excited …,” said Blatt, who will pursue a career in pediatrics at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “After a rewarding eight years at Georgetown, I feel sufficiently prepared for my intern year.”

Hahn Soe-Lin is heading to Case Western in Cleveland to pursue general surgical residency training.  

“I'm feeling one part terrified, two parts extremely excited to be starting this new chapter on the journey to becoming an independent practitioner,” the new doctor said. “Looking back, I was extraordinarily proud for the pre-clinical and clinical training I received during my four years as a Georgetown medical student, and I hope to represent the commitment to holistic patient care so cherished here at Georgetown at my future training institution.”

One of the graduates is pursuing a military career. John Pavlus will begin a radiology residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“I have long-term aspirations for innovation and leadership in the Air Force and plan to translate this to the war fighter,” he said. “Creating new technologies and being at the leading edge of pioneering procedures are one of many reasons why I have decided the path I have before me. I also hope to teach and inspire the generations that follow in my footsteps.”

Find Your Purpose, LivingSocial CEO Tells Business Grads

Make yourself the dumbest person in the room, LivingSocial CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy (B’04) advised graduates of the McDonough School of Business Saturday.

“Find the smartest people you can and latch into them,” he said. “They will push you, help you solve problems, be the yin to your yang.”

O’Shaughnessy said when was deciding his own career path eight years ago, he “took a step back” and “realized that I needed a purpose.”

“I realized I wanted to create jobs,” the CEO explained. “I could think of nothing better than giving people a reason to get up to go to work in the morning and [have] financial security.”

He suggested graduates going into the business world think about getting things done, not just come up with ideas.

“Business ideas are a dime a dozen,” he said. “It’s easy to have an idea, but execution is hard. It’s where you can exceed and outshine the competition.”

He also suggested than young people starting out not “be the person who pontificates about what the company should do ...“Be the person who actually does it.”

“The most valuable people at Living Social are not the smartest,” he explained, “but those who actually get things done.”

A total of 344 students graduated from the school this weekend.

Charlotte Zink (B'12) is going to work at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Going to school for 18 years finally comes to an end,” she said. “We've been in school from [age] 4 to 22. This is the reward for all of the hard work that our parents have put in and all the hard work we completed."

Rick Goode (B’12), who will begin work at the Parthenon Group in Boston, said he enjoyed celebrating graduation with his classmates.

“It's great to be a part of it all,” he said. “It's sad, too, because I spent four years here and I've changed so much as a person. I'll be back, but it won't be the same. This is the last time we'll all be in the same place."

School of Foreign Service Speaker Says Poverty a Form of Violence

Ela Bhatt, a longtime advocate for women in India, told students graduating from the School of Foreign Service (SFS) today that poverty is “a form of violence perpetuated with the consent of the society” that cannot be eradicated without empowerment.

She said people and societies must be in partnership with conscience, fellow human beings and Mother Nature to do well in the world.

“I hope you will pause and consider the impact of your work on life today – but also on future lives,” said Bhatt, who created the largest labor union for self-employed women in India.

A total of 393 students graduated from SFS in 2012 – 362 in Washington, D.C., and 31 at SFS-Qatar in Doha.

SFS associate professor Raj Desai read the citation for Bhatt’s honorary degree.

He said her presence at commencement was especially appropriate because “our graduates, entering a world that seems at times overwhelmed by challenge, have much to learn from the example of this woman hailed as the gentle revolutionary.”

Julia Barrios, one of the students who graduated today, is an international politics major from San Francisco.

"I came here to be a bridge between cultures, and I found [Bhatt’s] speech to be the embodiment of that,” she said.

Her freshman roommate was from West Virginia and although they knew little about each other at first, she said they're now best friends.

James Avino, an international politics major from Buffalo, N.Y., who just joined the Navy, said he found the speech inspiring.

“I think it reflected the Jesuit ideas and values we've learned,” he said. 

School of Nursing & Health Studies Graduates Over 200 Students

Graduates of the School of Nursing & Health Studies were encouraged today to put their education to use to improve the world.

“In so much of the world, they're desperate for even a pale imitation of the opportunities that we here take for granted and, in many cases, throw away,” said commencement speaker Mark Green, senior director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. “… You have been given that which millions can only dream of.”

Green shared stories from his work as a volunteer teacher in Kenya and as the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania. He is also a former member of Congress representing Wisconsin.

“You must be engaged in this country, in leading us through these challenging times,” said Green, who was awarded an honorary degree. “You have been blessed with an amazing education. You have acquired skills and knowledge that can change the world on the grand stage or one family at a time. Please put those blessings to work.”

This year, 206 NHS undergraduates received bachelor of science degrees in health care management & policy, human science, international health and nursing.

Alison Lauter (NHS'12), a human science major, graduated with the highest cumulative grade point average. Lauter, who carried the school's banner and led the student procession, will attend Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in the fall.

Martin Y. Iguchi, the school's dean, encouraged the graduates to hold onto the university's values during their lives.

"We hope that each of you will move forward in your lives and careers according to the principles of Georgetown's Jesuit tradition," Iguchi said. "Whether you are making scientific discoveries, providing clinical care, analyzing health policy or engaging in public health activities on a global scale, we know you will conduct yourselves with an orientation toward the common good of society."

TV Creator To College Grads: Stand Up for Beliefs

David Simon, creator of TV shows “The Wire” and “Treme,” apologized to graduates of Georgetown College for his generation’s squandering of the opportunity to “deliver a great society.”

“My generation owes yours an apology because we definitely shanked it, we choked,” says Simon, the speaker for today’s College commencement. “We took our eyes off the prize which was always this – there can’t be two Americas, one for the fortunate and another for the rest. All of us must share the same future, like it or not.”

Simon told students to stand up for what they believe in and to call out in dissent when they see wrongdoing in the world.

“Tomorrow’s task is to make this moment matter to your community, to your country and to the world,” he says. “And to make sure at the end of your run that you leave the world better than you found it.”

A total of 899 students graduated from Georgetown College today, including 787 with bachelors of arts degrees and 112 with bachelor’s degrees in science.

Students say they appreciated Simon’s words.

“He really delivered a lot of meat to our mission of cura personalis,” says Robert Byrne (C’12), sociology major from California who plans to teach English in Southeast Asia. “The impression I got from his speech is these are the problems of the world and this is your responsibility … after listening to that speech, I feel a renewed sense that I need to do something to make the world a better place.”

Cura personalis is a Latin phrase meaning “care of the entire person” and is a part of Ignatian spirituality and educational philosophy.

Nadia Omar Mahmassani (C’12), the class valedictorian, said her time at Georgetown included being open to change.

“We took chances and put ourselves in unfamiliar situations hoping … something would come of them,” she says. “And whether we succeeded or failed … we had amazing friends, professors and family members standing by us all the time, reminding us that being lost at sea was not something to avoid, but rather, something to embrace.”


Scott Case, the founding chief technology officer of Priceline, the “Name Your Own Price” company, urged students graduating from the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) Friday to “ text message those people who helped you ...”

“Send a message to those people who are probably in the audience here … of thanks really, of gratitude,” said Case, who was responsible for building the technology that allowed Priceline to grow as quickly as it did. “Because they helped you get this far.”

He also advised the students to do “something big.”

A total of 552 students graduated from the SCS Friday, including 10 with doctorates in liberal studies, 77 with master’s degrees in liberal studies, 410 with masters of professional studies and 25 bachelor of arts in liberal studies.

Sabrina Garba, who graduated with a master’s in public relations and corporate communications, called Case’s speech “awesome.”

“He made us think about all the people in our lives that helped us get where we are today,” she said.

Arinze Emeagwali graduated with a master’s in sports industry management said getting his degree changed his life.

“Now I’m in Chicago, working hard because of it, so I’m happy,” Emeagwali said. “I’m working at a company called Paragon Marketing, we do the youth marketing for Gatorade and ESPN.”

Business School Speaker Asks Graduates to Help Restore Trust

A CEO speaking at the McDonough School of Business’ graduate-level commencement asked student Friday to “help restore trust in business.”

“You can make a real difference by raising the ethical standards of business,” said Barry Salzberg, Global CEO of Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu Limited. “Tell people about the positive social benefits business delivers – how it is part of the solution.”

The commencement was for graduates from the MBA, Executive MBA, Executive Master’s in Leadership programs.

“As you walk out of here today into your future,” Salzberg said, “remember the many people who held that door wide open for you and never forget to hold the door open to the generations after you.”

Willie Yung (G’12) said he made lifelong friends at Georgetown.

“My class is the closest MBA class ever,” said Yung, who will soon begin working for Toys R Us. “There’s a lot of love.”

Lindsay Ah Loo, who was in the evening MBA program, said her graduation is “the culmination of three years of hard work and putting your nose to the grindstone.”

“You make a lot of great friends along the way to help you get to that point,” said Loo, who is now working for the U.S. Navy. “Today is a celebration not only for yourself, but for everyone who took the journey with you.” 

 A total of 442 students graduated from the full-time MBA program, with 54 from the evening program and 27 from the Executive Master’s in Leadership Program.

Neuroscientist Speaks at Graduate School Ceremony

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences welcomed over 1,400 new graduates during Georgetown’s first 2012 Commencement ceremony on Healy Lawn Friday morning.

Among the graduates included 106 who earned doctor of philosophy degrees, and 1,348 who garnered master’s degrees of art, applied economics, teaching, policy management, public policy and science.

Two Georgetown history and School of Foreign Service professors – Nancy Tucker and John R. McNeill – were honored with the 2012 Career Research Achievement Award and Distinguished Achievement in Research Awards, respectively.

Helen Neville, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Oregon, was honored with a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, and gave the commencement address.

She told graduates to help those who are less privileged and to fulfill their career aspirations.

“Take your time in figuring out your path – the path that you really love, your passion,” she says. “And it often does take a long time, but once you find it, you never have to ‘work’ a day in your life.”

Students said they appreciated Neville’s advice and what she said about her research on the role of experience in human development and the plasticity of the brain.

“I think that the work that she’s doing is invaluable to education,” says Rabiah Khalil Abdullah (G’12), who earned a masters of science in applied linguistics. “It’s just so interesting to know that the mind has so much flexibility and can grant so much potential if the education comes early enough within those critical periods.”

Rachel Nyswander Thomas (G’12), who received her master’s in public policy management, said over the years she’s learned that getting anything done in Washington involves “three P’s” – policy, politics and procedure.

At Georgetown, she’s learned the importance of another “P” – people.

“Policy, politics and procedure are nothing without the right people," said Nyswander Thomas, who works as vice president of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association. "Policy is only as good as those who envision and enact it.”

She said her class had been well-prepared by Georgetown faculty.

Chris Schreck (G’12), a fellow Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) graduate, agreed.

“I can speak for everyone in thanking the outstanding faculty at GPPI,” he said to the professors seated in the audience. “We are better for having been your students.”

Michael Collins (G'12), who earned his master's of science in foreign service, says he and his classmates attended Georgetown during a time of global change, including the Arab Spring, continued Euro crisis and death of Osama bin Laden.

"We're very lucky to be studying international relations at a time such as this," he says. "We're actually fortunate enough to be living history."

Former FBI Director Speaks at ROTC Commissioning

Friday’s commencement events started in the early morning with the Army ROTC 94th Annual Commissioning Ceremony in Georgetown’s historic Gaston Hall.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh spoke at the ceremony, in which 23 members of the nation’s No. 1-ranked Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, the Hoya Battalion, were commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Army.

“We expect you to live by your values and by your code but we also expect you to live up to a personal sense of honor and to make sure that when you give your word, your word means something,” he said. “That and the leadership qualities will hold you very well, they will make you fine officers, fine citizens and fine leaders for America in the future.”

The Hoya Battalion presented Louis Freeh and outgoing Georgetown Provost James J. O’Donnell with honorary awards.

Graduates from the Hoya Battalion include Daniel Kim (SFS’12) and Sean Freeh (SFS’12), who both earned the Distinguished Military Graduate Award for ranking in the top 20 percent of the national Cadet Command. Sean Freeh is the son of the former FBI director.

Kim, valedictorian of the 2012 Hoya Battalion class, thanked his family, friends, cadre members and fellow second lieutenants for their support.

“We have been on a journey toward this day for a number of years, whether it ranged from two to four,” he says. “Knowing the quality of my classmates, it is a truly humbling experience to be named your valedictorian.”

The graduates will serve in various branches of the Army, including infantry and military intelligence.

The newly commissioned members also include students from George Washington University, Catholic University of America and American University.

“You exemplify the strong principled and effective leaders our [country’s] founders hoped would follow them and our country will be better for your service,” Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said.

Students Honored for Social Justice Commitments

About 150 Georgetown students were honored for their commitment to service during the Center for Social Justice, Teaching and Research’s Class of 2012 Send Off Ceremony Friday morning.

The graduating students were recognized both for the work they did while at Georgetown as well as their future commitments after graduation.

“The young women and men who we’ve gathered to send off this morning embody a community of engagement, campus activities, coursework, research and entrepreneurial efforts that they have prioritized as students,” says Jane E. Genster, interim executive director for CSJ, “and in the next step, professional choices that they have made, a profound commitment to use their talents, energy and education to advance justice and the common good.”

The graduates' post-Georgetown plans include positions with Teach for America and the Peace Corps.

Keynote speaker Nick Sementelli (F’09), who works for the strategy center Faith in Public Life, challenged students to become advocates for the disadvantaged and to get to know the stories of people they help.

“My work as an advocate is 10 times better when I have a story to present,” he says, “when I have faces and people and real understanding and real stories to share with the people who are making decisions who need to hear those stories.”