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Kunin Urges Graduates to Work as “Agents of Change” at Vermont Law School’s

May 17, 2008

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT – Highlighting the 33rd commencement ceremony of Vermont Law School, Madeleine May Kunin today called on VLS graduates to work as "agents of change," and urged them to use their educational experience to tackle the problems that face their generation and others that will follow.

Kunin, whose book Pearls, Politics, & Power: How Women Can Win and Lead was recently published by Chelsea Green, told the graduates that she has spent much time considering what propels people from being "observers of life" to "participants in life."

While her book advocates for women to become more involved in politics, she emphasized that her remarks were directed "at all men and women who do not see themselves reflected in the mirrors of the halls of power."

"It is critical for you—this generation of Vermont Law School graduates—to step into the public arena," said Kunin, Vermont’s former governor who served as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland in the 1990s, more than six decades after she and her family fled that country during Hitler’s rise.

"My message to you is not new, but it is critical if we are to address today’s great challenges," she told the students as hundreds of their family members and friends looked on. "Get engaged in the life of your time, be political in the broadest sense of the word.

Use your education to create change. Nurture your anger, feed your imagination, and cling to your optimism for dear life."

The message promises not to be lost on those receiving degrees, as VLS is ranked among the top 20 public interest law schools in the nation.

During today’s ceremony, held under clear blue skies and a white tent, Juris Doctor degrees were conferred on 172 graduates, 39 of whom also received Masters of Studies in Environmental Law (MELP) degrees. Additionally, there were 44 MELP degrees conferred on non-JD graduates; six Masters of Laws in Environmental Law degrees and four degrees in Masters of Laws in American Legal Studies awarded.

Three JD graduates were honored during the ceremony for their contributions:

  • Elizabeth Catlin of Montpelier, Vt., received the Learned Hand Award for highest G.P.A.

  • John Sautter of Ceresco, Neb., received the Maximilian W. Kempner Award. In honor of the fifth VLS dean, the award is given to the student who best exemplifies the highest standards of competence, integrity, respect, fair-mindedness and public service.

  • Alison Share of Rougemont, N.C., received the Alumni Association Award for Contribution to the School.

Honorary degrees were awarded to Kunin; Dr. Elizabeth Economy, award-winning author, C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; and John Hennessey, former dean of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College who has served as a VLS trustee from 1999 to 2007, and is now a trustee emeritus.

In addition to Kunin, graduates heard from Ryan Peterson, who was chosen by his peers to represent the Class of 2008 at commencement. Drawing from his background as an actor before entering law school, Peterson offered a spirited address, urging his classmates to strive for "exceptional" in all that they do.

CONTACT: Diane Derby, Director of Media Relations

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