UNH Law graduates encouraged to overcome fears

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  • UNH School of Law professor Marcus Hurn leads faculty and students on their way to the graduation ceremony at White Park on Saturday in Concord. Hurn has taught 18 different law classes at the school during his 41-year career. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Michele Peltz speaks during the UNH Law commencement ceremony on Saturday as UNH President James W. Dean Jr. (right) listens.

  • Josh Peltz and his daughter, Madelyn, smile as they watch Michele Peltz speak during UNH Law’s commencement ceremony in Concord on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • UNH Law professor Sophie Sparrow (left) and Associate Professor Courtney Brooks lead the graduates at they enter White Park on Saturday, May 18, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Wenyan Han waves to her family as she walks to graduate at the UNH Law ceremony on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Han received a Master of Laws in Commerce and Technology. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/18/2019 11:19:19 PM

With birds singing and the sun shining at White Park on Saturday, it was hard to imagine feeling scared at the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s 44th Commencement.

But student speaker Caitlin Poole told the audience that the fear she felt while taking her first year exams as a law student eclipsed the fear she felt while emergency dispatching – an experience where she found herself dispatching police to armed home invasions and listening to people give their loved ones CPR.

And as the roughly 80 students prepared to practice law in the real world, Poole said some of that fear still remained with her. But after receiving countless requests for legal advice while in school, Poole said it was clear navigating that fear is what being a lawyer is all about.

“I think it demonstrates the need for lawyers and legal services,” she said. “I think it shows the power that comes from being able to read and decipher the law – power that allows us to touch lives and create change in the world, to be forces of good in the world.”

What it takes to cultivate that power cropped up time and again throughout the ceremony, with speakers pointing to different sources of strength.

For student speaker Michele Peltz, the support of her online classmates helped her balance getting a degree with working full-time and raising a family.

“The online environment is not lonely,” she said.

Most important was the support of her 5-year-old daughter, Madelyn, sitting in the audience with Michele’s husband, Josh. To demonstrate, she held up a handwritten note Madelyn had slipped into her notes that morning, stating her daughter was proud of her for “1. helping 2. working 3. BEING YOU.”

Professor Sophie Sparrow, meanwhile, advised students to keep a “positive feedback file” full of moments of praise and accolades on hand to dispel moments of fear and doubt.

“Whenever I’m having a bad day … and I’m feeling like I’m not adding a lot of value to the school or anybody, I look at that file and I say ‘Ah-ha!’ – because we’re lawyers, right? – ‘There’s evidence to the contrary,” she said.

But for now, UNH Law Dean Megan Carpenter encouraged students to celebrate how far they’d come.

“People say life is about the journey and not the destination, and all of that is true of course, a million times over,” she said. “Today, guess what, you’ve reached a destination.”

Commencement speaker Robyn Glaser, vice president of the Kraft Group, encouraged graduates to find something to stand for even when times get tough.

“And while on that path, we have to be great wherever our feet are,” she said. “Just kill it now, where we are, on the way to where we want to be.”

The day included recognition bestowing an honorary degree to Gordon Smith, whose career in the field of intellectual property valuation includes developing standards in Southeast Asia.

His involvement with the school spans 30 years and includes time as a guest lecturer, adjunct, trustee and 10 years as a professor of intellectual property management.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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