Harvard Law School’s 2015 Class Day ceremony featured speeches by Gabrielle Giffords, former U.S. Representative from Arizona, and her husband Mark Kelly, a Navy pilot and NASA astronaut, and Harvard Law School Professor Jon Hanson, winner of the 2015 Albert M. Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence. A number of Harvard Law students from the Class of ’15 received special awards for their outstanding leadership, citizenship, compassion and dedication to their studies and the profession.
Four years ago, then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was shot in the head and gravely wounded by a gunman in a mass shooting outside a Tucson supermarket. Most people who suffer such an injury don’t survive, as her husband, Mark Kelly, pointed out. But Giffords fought back. On Wednesday, taking the podium to a standing ovation at Class Day exercises for Harvard Law School, she urged the students to action.
This year, more than 750 students will receive degrees from Harvard Law School. Each brought unique experiences to law school and all have tailored their academic careers while at HLS to explore their individual interests. As they prepare to graduate, several members of the Harvard Law School Class of 2015 reflect on the interests they brought to law school and the experiences they will take from their time at Harvard Law.
This year’s Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award was presented to Chad Baker, honored for demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services to disadvantaged communities. Baker contributed over 2000 pro bono hours working with the Tenant Advocacy Project, the Prison Legal Assistance Project, and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.
In a way, the seeds of Victoria White-Mason’s activism were planted long before she was born. Her grandfather was the first black man to graduate from Duke University, where he faced prejudice and discrimination. Her great-grandfather operated a business in Durham, N.C.’s Hayti district, a thriving African-American community during a time of segregation. Her family history helped raise her awareness of racial injustice and also the strength of black people in the face of adversity.