The charter class of Indiana Tech Law School participated in commencement ceremonies Saturday, marking another milestone for the Fort Wayne institution.
A total of 20 students walked across the stage inside the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum to receive their law degrees as part of the 95th commencement ceremony for the Indiana Institute of Technology. Dean Charles Cercone introduced the law school Class of 2016, saying the faculty was proud to award degrees to the charter class.
Originally 27 students matriculated when the law school opened in August 2013. Several students became academically ineligible to continue while a few left after the law school parted ways with its founding dean Peter Alexander and then failed to gain provisional accreditation in the spring of 2015.
Indiana Tech Law School has since been able to secure provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association. The institution was notified it had received approval in March 2016, which enables the Class of 2016 to sit for the Indiana Bar Exam.
After commencement, the graduates and their families gathered at the law school for a special reception. Associate dean for admissions and student affairs andré douglas pond cummings made some brief heartfelt remarks, recounting the school’s difficult journey to get accreditation and thanking the graduates for continuing their studies at Indiana Tech.
The class will now begin studying for the bar exam that will be given in July. Many graduates are planning to return to Indiana Tech in about a week to take a bar preparation course.
Acknowledging the criticism that has been leveled at Indiana Tech Law School since before it accepted students, cummings said the graduates now carry part of the burden of bolstering the school’s reputation. In particular, he said they have to pass the bar exam and they have to be exceptional attorneys.
“They’ve got to be better than just good lawyers,” cummings said. “That’s how our reputation increases is when people that graduated from other law schools work with our law students and they see how competent they are, how ethical they are, how sort of well-ahead of the curve they are from the other law school graduates.”
At the commencement ceremonies, the law school graduates were seated near the front, alongside the Ph.D. candidates and just behind the faculty.
When graduate John Kochanski was given his J.D., a young man called out from the crowd, “That’s my dad.”
Also, Elwood City Court Judge Kyle Noone was among those receiving a law degree.
Former child actor on the television show, “Leave it to Beaver,” Jerry Mathers was the commencement speaker. He congratulated all the Indiana Tech graduates on achieving their degrees and encouraged them to continue believing in their own potential. Sometimes, he told them, they will meet adversity but they should overcome the challenge by reinventing themselves and creating new possibilities.
Mathers concluded by advising the graduates to laugh a lot, love each other, always forgive and always believe in their potential.