No one said getting a law degree would be easy.
And for Miles Davis, getting his from the University of New Hampshire School of Law on Saturday was more difficult than he could have imagined, given that he was wheeled up on stage to receive it after turning his knee into hamburger last month.
The young man from Manchester, who has no connection to the famous jazz musician of the same name, was one of 90 graduating students announced in a big-top tent, with the White Park fountain spraying nearby.
“Flag football,” said Davis, when asked about his left leg, held stable and straight by a cast as he sat in the wheelchair. “This is exciting except for my leg issues. I tore everything up. I cut to make someone miss a tackle. I felt a burn right away.”
He sat outside the school’s central building, along with his chauffeur for the day, fellow graduate Laura Del Camp, also from Manchester.
“Our last names mean we’re sitting together,” Del Camp said, explaining how she got the job.
Inside, a sea of black robes and purple tassels filled a narrow hallway as future attorneys waited for their big moment on a warm day. Smiles mixed with nerves mixed with electricity as the group waited for the ceremony to begin.
Stephanie Moats of Concord, who studied patent law, already has a job lined up in Silicon Valley, Calif., saying, “It allows me to study for the Bar without stressing out about a job.”
Ah yes. The Bar.
It’s out there, coming at the end of July, translating into a study schedule that Moats said will consist of eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week, beginning Monday.
Not for Elena Brander, however. The Hull, Mass., resident earned a bachelor’s degree in literature, then was offered a full scholarship to attend law school here.
And as a member of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, she was sworn in to the New Hampshire Bar on Friday, meaning she can skip the exam. She’s hopeful one of her recent interviews will lead to a job.
“Pretty exciting,” said Brander, who said studying and job hunting at the same time amounted to two full-time jobs. “It’s pretty surreal. It’s special to look around and see all my classmates here and all their robes and caps, and it’s so great to see everyone happy all at once. We all depend on each other, we all worked together to get through the past three years.”
The fun and excitement took on a somber tone during the ceremony, when Martha Massey, wife of the late Professor Calvin Massey, spoke. Calvin Massey died of cancer last year.
A towering man in both height and stature who wore a big bow tie, Calvin Massey “was excited and energized by his classes and felt the chemistry in each classroom,” according to Martha.
Martha Massey completed her appearance by thanking the school community for its support. “You made a hard time a little less hard,” she said, before exiting to an extended ovation.
Mitchell Simon, a semi-retired professor, also focused on Calvin Massey, saying he and his former colleague were friends despite wide differences in political beliefs, especially when it came to entitlement programs.
“I felt better informed, and I felt hopeful,” Simon said. “If you follow Calvin’s lead, you will be a better lawyer. If you live those values, you will be a better human being.”
Simon closed by referring to an advertising slogan made famous by Gatorade and Michael Jordan nearly 25 years ago.
“Be like Calvin,” Simon said.
The commencement speaker was Sharon Prost, chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Prost, whose family suffered in concentration camps at the hands of the Nazis, said, “This is your moment. Take it and run with it.”
Each graduate then walked on stage, one by one, to receive their diploma.
Except for Davis, who got a ride from his friend, Del Camp.