VALPARAISO | Valparaiso University law graduate Jennifer Hayes’s message to current law school students: Go strong or go home.
The young woman was one of 156 Valparaiso University law school graduates who received their diplomas Sunday morning at the Chapel of the Resurrection.
Hayes had a no-nonsense advice for those contemplating law school.
“It takes a lot of drive and a lot of passion, so if you don’t have that, don’t bother,” said Hayes, of Fort Wayne.
Mark Heckler, university president, welcomed friends and families packed in the chapel and lauded the graduates.
“You have accomplished many things during your time here,” said Heckler. “There is great cause, after three long years, to celebrate.”
Joyce Thompson, an National Collegiate Athletic Association enforcement department director and a 1999 VU law school graduate, provided the graduation address.
As an investigator who ensures athletic programs comply with NCAA rules, Thompson was portrayed in the 2009 movie "The Blind Side" as an NCAA investigator interviewing then high school football player Michael Oher, who went on to play for the University of Mississippi.
“All of you have mastered the rigors of law school with grace, humility and a burning determination, and for that, all of you should be lauded,” said Thompson.
Thompson urged the graduates to know their “authentic” selves and “core values.”
“Always think about the decisions you make, the words you say, and your treatment of others,” said Thompson. “Make doing the right thing an automatic choice and not a question you have to ponder.”
Lastly, said Thompson, the new lawyers must “make something better in the world for someone else.”
“It is your job to instill the knowledge and the wisdom you have learned from this institution and to use it to help others,” said Thompson. “Know that you have been enriched beyond measure and remember always to let your lights shine.”
Outside the chapel prior to the ceremony, Megan Jones adjusted the hood on the graduation robe of friend and fellow graduate, Matthew Nowicki.
Jones came to VU from Albany, Georgia to experience life outside the southeastern United States.
Although VU was the “perfect place” for Jones to study law, she is ready to return to Georgia.
“I’m excited to move out of this arctic tundra,” said Jones. “This winter killed me.”
Jones is “excited to be a VU graduate and alumni” who will specialize in estate planning and family law.
“I really liked the message at VU -- to use your law degree to help others,” Jones said.
Hayes is also embracing a job search and enjoyed VU’s “small town atmosphere.”
“This has been very rewarding,” said Hayes, who will focus on health law. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do – it’s a lifelong dream.”