Valparaiso’s 2014 law school class graduates
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent May 18, 2014 10:22PM
Valerie Weeden-Johnson receives her Valparaiso University School of Law degree from university president Mark Heckler during commencement exercises on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at the Chapel of the Resurrection. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 23, 2014 11:22AM
VALPARAISO — In the movie “The Hangover” as in life, wolf packs are a pretty tight bunch, and as Valparaiso University’s Student Bar Association President Dan Didech pointed out, the 2014 law school class is no exception.
Didech, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., came to VU three years ago considering himself a one-man pack, he told a packed Chapel of the Resurrection during graduation ceremonies Sunday morning. A study group quickly changed that, and pretty soon the first-year students shared their struggles during the dreaded weed-out civil procedure class.
Pretty soon, they were arguing cases in front of International Moot Court competitions, donated enough blood to save 180 lives and even were voted the most physically fit student bar association in the state.
“And now we’re done. We had a lot of successes in law school, some stumbling blocks but mostly successes. But one thing I know is that we wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of our friends and family,” Didech said, going on to quote Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. “When something good happens to you, I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here. You’d wake me up in the middle of the night in the summer times, making me run up a hill, making me do pushups, screaming at me from the sidelines of my games at 8 or 9 years old.
“We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”
Law school third-year adviser Bruce Berner told the group there are two types of lawyers: Those who compete and those who collaborate. Using the example of the infamous Valparaiso roundabouts, Berner said 20 percent of people who drive through them drive aggressively to compete, while the other 80 percent “compete” by driving too timidly. Those who know how to navigate them without incident are collaborative, and Berner said the law school Class of 2014 knows how to handle those who choose to compete.
Olivia Robinson, a graduate from Oakland, Calif., said she would miss the community the 155 law students formed over the course of school. Though she, unlike Didech, wasn’t as enamored with JoEllen Lind’s civil procedure class.
“It was scary,” said Robinson, who will head to George Washington University to work toward her master’s in law. “They give you this case to work on for a semester, and it was just so dense.”
Brett Galvan, of DeMotte, called Lind’s class one that “teaches punctuality, humility and the whisper of authority, all with a beautiful grace and terror.” He, too, will miss the friends he made but looks forward to continuing his work as a law clerk with Lowell attorney Paul Rossi.
“Honestly, the thing I liked the most about VU law school were the friends that I made there and their unique perspectives,” Galvan said. “Also, the Socratic method of teaching used by the professors, which challenged you to think beyond just the black-letter law and actually use what you have learned to defend your position.”