91 new graduates celebrate the culmination of their law studies at 2016 Commencement

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: May 18, 2016

Law School graduates from the Class of 2016 walk to Commencement at Andrews Amphitheater.
Law School graduates from the Class of 2016 walk to Commencement at Andrews Amphitheater.

A breeze sprang up and, except for a brief sprinkle, the rain held off as 91 UH Law School graduates shared an ending and a beginning on Sunday, May 15, as they gathered with family and friends at Andrews Amphitheater for the 2016 Commencement of the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Graduates heard Professor and former Dean Lawrence Foster ’81 reflect on his “30-plus” years at the Law School as he headed into retirement, and applauded Evening Part Time program assistant director Ramona Hussey ’89, who is also retiring. Moments later they listened as Kamaile Nichols Turčan ’08 spoke about defining success your own way.

Turčan, who was chosen by the graduating class to give the Commencement address, is the first person of Native Hawaiian ancestry to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, and very likely the first indigenous person to hold such a position. She begins her prestigious clerkship with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor in July.

“You have already achieved a version of success, graduating from Law School.  Now you must define what success means to you,” Turčan told the assemblage of well over 1,000 people. “Throw aside ideas of what you thought you would be doing.  Be open to the option of changing paths. Sometimes doors open that you never knew you wanted.

“So many doors are open in the law – and you can walk through them. Put yourself in position, work hard at what you are doing now, and you will be ready when doors open.”

The graduation ceremony was unique for its opportunity to honor the inaugural graduating class of 40 years ago. In stepping to the microphone as a spokesman for his classmates, former Governor John Waihe‘e ’76 gave the 2016 graduates a window into the first class at Richardson during the Law School’s opening year of 1973.

“When we began school we made a promise that none of us would be the first person to fail the Law School,” he said. “So we started with 50 (students) and we ended with 50.”

The annual Law School graduation once again was an emotional afternoon that included families gathering with lei, champagne toasts, teary goodbyes, and joyous celebrations – and even recognition for the keiki of the graduates.

Each year Richardson honors the children of the graduating class with their own awards ceremony, certificates and applause as a way to thank them for what they have sacrificed and contributed to their parents success. This year was no different, except that a few keiki chose to give their own short speeches.

“I wish my mom all the best,” said 6-year-old Amira Kimba, whose mother, Aichatou Ibrahim Kimba, graduated with an LLM degree. Kimba is from Niger, and she was one of 11 international law students who earned an LLM degree.

Representatives of each graduating class (LLM, Evening Part Time program and Daytime JD program) gave moving talks about their own experiences as part of what Dean Avi Soifer called “the remarkable, extraordinary, wonderful Class of 2016.”

Rico Jan von Allmen, an attorney from Switzerland, spoke for the LLM class; Dr. Thomas Holland, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon, gave the address for the Evening Program students; and Rebecca Justine ‘Iolani Soon, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and Babson College, was chosen by her classmates to give the JD address.

“Let’s go out and be fighters for the community,” said Soon in an inspirational speech to her classmates, “and constantly remind ourselves of the people who don’t have the opportunities we have. . . Be who you are, and let everyone love that person.”

Graduation statistics:

Total graduates - 91

Masters of Law degrees - 11

Evening Part Time JD program graduates - 16

Fulltime Day JD program graduates - 64

Native Hawaiian Law certificates - 15

Environmental Law certificates - 10

International Law certificates - 9

Pacific Asian Legal Studies certificates - 5

(Full photo caption) 2016 UH Law School graduate Janna (Wehi) Ahu waves to her family at Commencement exercises on Sunday at Andrews Amphitheater.  Chantrelle Waialae is to her left and Robert Zane to her right. Photo courtesy of the UH Law School.

For more information, visit: https://www.law.hawaii.edu/