Make a pos­i­tive impact on the world. Cel­e­brate our dif­fer­ences. Ask hard ques­tions, be curious about new dis­ci­plines, and devise cre­ative approaches to deliv­ering justice.

These were among the many mes­sages grad­u­ates of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity School of Law received on Friday at Com­mence­ment, where some 220 grad­u­ates were con­grat­u­lated for their many accom­plish­ments, deliv­ered inspiring speeches, and show­ered with cheers from family and friends in atten­dance at Matthews Arena.

Com­mence­ment speaker Tracey McCain, senior vice pres­i­dent and head of legal at Sanofi Gen­zyme, chal­lenged grad­u­ates to find a way to make a dif­fer­ence in the world. That oppor­tu­nity may still be unknown, as McCain said it was for her when she grad­u­ated law school. Her oppor­tu­nity came in the biotech field.

Tracey McCain, senior vice president and head of legal at Sanofi Genzyme, delivers the Commencement address. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Tracey McCain, senior vice pres­i­dent and head of legal at Sanofi Gen­zyme, delivers the Com­mence­ment address. Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

McCain said one of her proudest moments as an attorney was an early assign­ment at Gen­zyme, when she was asked to help form a joint ven­ture with a Dutch com­pany to develop a cure for Pompe dis­ease, an ultra-​​rare and dev­as­tating ill­ness. Her group worked on four prod­ucts over eight years, but in 2006 the FDA approved Myozyme—the first therapy for Pompe disease.

No matter what you do after today, as long as you leverage the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence that you worked hard to gain here at North­eastern and remember to bring your common sense and your humanity every day, no matter what you do, you will be great and you will make a dif­fer­ence,” McCain said.

McCain said North­eastern is “near and dear to her heart.” She said one of her ear­liest mem­o­ries was coming to campus for her father’s grad­u­a­tion. Her sister and step­daughter have also earned degrees from North­eastern, and she got her first job in the legal pro­fes­sion from Rod­erick Ire­land, former chief jus­tice of the Mass­a­chu­setts Supreme Court and now Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor in the School of Crim­i­nology and Crim­inal Jus­tice at Northeastern.

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

Oppor­tu­ni­ties are ahead that “we cannot yet imagine”

Jeremy Paul, dean of the School of Law, told grad­u­ates their co-​​op expe­ri­ences and a chal­lenging cur­riculum have pre­pared them to be nimble in their careers, in which their law degrees “will open employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties we cannot yet imagine.”

Through your hard work and ded­i­ca­tion, you have made pos­i­tive impacts on the clients you served and improved the rep­u­ta­tion of the legal pro­fes­sion. In short, you came to North­eastern because you wanted to make a dif­fer­ence, and you are already doing so.”
— Jeremy Paul, dean of the School of Law

He pointed to grad­u­ates’ many accom­plish­ments, including Colleen Shea receiving the pres­ti­gious Skadden Fel­low­ship. Other grad­u­ates have earned the Amer­ican Bank­ruptcy Institute’s Medal of Excel­lence, Equal Jus­tice Works Fel­low­ships, and fed­eral clerkships.

Through your hard work and ded­i­ca­tion, you have made pos­i­tive impacts on the clients you served and improved the rep­u­ta­tion of the legal pro­fes­sion,” he said. “In short, you came to North­eastern because you wanted to make a dif­fer­ence, and you are already doing so.”

Paul urged grad­u­ates to remember some key lessons they’ve learned from their North­eastern edu­ca­tion: asking the tough ques­tions that will unearth the roots of the prob­lems they are trying to solve, fighting hard for their clients without cut­ting cor­ners or breaching ethics, and devising cre­ative approaches to deliv­ering jus­tice. Paul also encour­aged grad­u­ates to be curious about dis­ci­plines out­side of the law and bridge what he called the growing divide between the sci­en­tific and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties and those in arts and politics.

Lawyers who build the future will be those eager to know more sci­ence, busi­ness, and engi­neering, not less,” he said.

Emmanuel Sam was one of three students speakers at Commencement. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Emmanuel Sam was one of three stu­dents speakers at Com­mence­ment. Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

Stu­dent speakers Andrew Justin Collins, Jen­nifer Denker, and Emmanuel Sam, all reflected on their time at North­eastern. Collins urged grad­u­ates to embrace, not reject, others’ dif­fer­ences in their lives and careers. Denker encour­aged grad­u­ates to “make the real world a better ver­sion of itself.” And Sam described growing up amid civil war in Sierra Leone, which inspired him to seek oppor­tu­ni­ties to “give voice to the voice­less” and become an advo­cate for human rights.

Law pro­fessor Daniel Medwed deliv­ered the fac­ulty address, and he invited retiring pro­fessor Stephen Subrin to join him on stage to share the moment.  They deliv­ered the address as a Q&A to each other. Subrin asked Medwed what dif­fer­en­ti­ates North­eastern law stu­dents, and Medwed said they were nimble, resourceful, resilient, and com­mitted to team­work and collaboration.

Law professors Daniel Medwed (white cap) and Stephen Subrin (red cap) share a hug after speaking to graduates. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Law pro­fes­sors Daniel Medwed (white cap) and Stephen Subrin (red cap) share a hug after speaking to grad­u­ates. Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

To con­clude their address, Subrin unveiled a red cap with the words “Make Civil Pro­ce­dure Great Again”—a ref­er­ence to Repub­lican pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” cap. He pre­sented Medwed with his copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prej­u­dice and his hat from Chicken Lou’s, the pop­ular campus eatery across from the law school.

Medwed donned the cap, and pre­sented Subrin with a brick—in recog­ni­tion of his being a foun­da­tional member of the School of Law.