Commencement Celebrates Texas A&M’s first LL.M. Graduate and the J.D. Class of 2018

May 15, 2018

Law Graduation 2018 groupTexas A&M University School of Law graduates celebrate at the Spring 2018 commencement and hooding ceremony

On Friday, April 27, 2018, more than 100 Texas A&M School of Law students received their Juris Doctor degree and the school’s first Masters of Law degree was awarded at the Spring commencement and hooding ceremony.

First LL.M. Graduate

graduation2018-fukuuchiHiroki Fukuuchi receives Texas A&M's first Master of Laws (LL.M.) graduate program degree from Law School Interim Dean Thomas W. Mitchell

Hiroki Fukuuchi is the first graduate of Texas A&M University School of Law’s graduate degree program. The Masters of Law (LL.M.) and Masters of Jurisprudence (M.Jur.) curriculum offers online distance education and Fort Worth and San Antonio in-residence opportunities in the areas of business and commercial law, criminal law, intellectual property, natural resources law, risk management and wealth management.

Fukuuchi, a graduate of Chuo University Faculty of Law in Japan, began his business law-focused LL.M. program in August 2017 in Fort Worth. Following graduation, Fukuuchi will return to his home in Tokyo as in-house ​counsel in the legal department of Kobe Steel, Ltd., handling complex negotiations relating to international joint ventures, stockholder relations and contract drafting.

“Very excited today is finally here”

“I am very excited today is finally here,” said former U.S. Army captain, Public Interest Law Fellowship president and new law school graduate Tie She` Chavis. “This has been a long time coming for myself and my family.”

Before the graduation ceremony, Chavis reflected back on her first day of law school, “I had my daughter on the first day of law school. I had my second daughter my second year of law school.”

Chavis’ husband was active duty military and while the couple was geographically separated, Chavis attended law school. Chavis embraced the challenge but admitted that it was not easy. “I am just glad that this part of the journey is over and to have my family back together,” said Chavis.

Maxine Harrington, Tie She' ChavisProfessor Maxine Harrington with graduate Tie She` Chavis

Chavis attributes much of her success to her family and her law school family. “Professor Maxine Harrington has been my number one supporter throughout my journey in law school. I met her right before my 1L year started. And Dean [Rosalind] Jeffers [Assistant Dean for Student Affairs] has been super amazing,” Chavis said.

Grace Getman ’17 graduated from law school last spring and attended this year's ceremony to support her best friend, graduate Katlin Ashley. The two met at the University of Texas.

“We joke that she [Katlin] followed me here, but she loves this school. She came to visit while I was here, and she visited all the law schools in Texas and really loved this one,” Getman said.

Getman, who now works for a commercial real estate firm in Dallas, provided advice to her best friend and the other graduates. “Make guidelines of what you want in a job; know all of your requirements and don’t stop until you get that job,” Getman advised.

Awards & Presentations

Graduation awards 20182018 Commencement Awards:  National Order of Scribes inductees (top); Emma Martin, Equal Justice Award, with Ass​istant Dean Rosalind Jeffers​ (bottom left); Élan Moore, Excellence in Appellate Advocacy Award (bottom right)

The law school, like Texas A&M University main campus, is proud to acknowledge its military graduates at commencement. U.S. Army veteran Professor Joe Spurlock ’60 presented the 10 class of 2018 military graduates with the symbolic red, white and blue military veteran cords at the ceremony.

Graduate Emma Martin received the Equal Justice Award for completing the class’s greatest number of legal pro bono hours -- 404.5. Martin earned the majority of her hours serving the non-profit organization Children at Risk.

Five graduates were inducted into the National Order of Scribes, for excellence in legal writing: Allen Al-Haj, Amanda Donnelly, Emma Martin, Hope Shelton and Henrik Strand.

The Appellate Section of the State Bar of Texas awarded Élan Moore the 2018 Excellence in Appellate Advocacy award. Moore and her teammate Lorraine Birabil ’19 are the first Aggie Law team to win first place regionally and second place nationally in the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Cynthia Alkon recognized 3​3 students who have earned a Concentration by completing a focused curriculum that demonstrates academic excellence and significant expertise in specific areas of law: business law; criminal law, justice and policy; environmental law; estate planning; family law; intellectual property; workplace law or public policy.

Ceremony Highlights

Chavis led the moment of silence in remembrance for fellow classmate Stephanie Skipworth who passed away in their first year of law school. Skipworth was honored with a cap and gown placed in an empty chair amongst the graduates.

Patton RitterClass speaker Patton Ritter

The elected class speaker was Patton Ritter, ​outgoing Student Bar Association president. Ritter, on behalf of all the graduates, recognized and thanked family and friends for their support. Ritter reminded graduates that they carry the responsibility to represent and preserve the traditions of Texas A&M University, and especially ​the School of Law, and to “live” the Aggie core values.  

Keynote speaker Brooke Rollins ’94, president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, encouraged Aggie Law graduates to “live a life of integrity guided by principle” as “stewards” in John Adams’ ‘good government’s empire of laws’.

Regent Bill MahomesRegent Bill Mahomes

Texas A&M University System Regent William “Bill” Mahomes, Jr., ’69 who officially conferred the degrees, charged the graduates, as holders of a professional degree from Texas A&M University, to “carry on our proud legacy of positively impacting lives” and to “maintain your leadership and dedication to the greater good.”

Law graduation 2018 Maxine HarringtonProfessor Maxine Harrington hooding Tie She' Chavis

Professor Maxine Harrington, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, who will be retiring after 15 years of dedicated service to the law school, was honored with a standing ovation from the faculty, staff, graduates and current students in attendance. Harrington was awarded the Association of Former Students ​College-level Teaching Award in 2017, recognizing her mentorship, talent in the classroom, and professionalism in the law school and wider legal community.

Harrington, along with Professors Meg Penrose and Lynne Rambo, was selected by the students to “hood” the graduates.

The Aggie Law class of 2018 was welcomed into the Association of Former Students by Kristi Sherrill Hoyl ’86, a member of the AFS Board of Directors. Hoyl and Law School Interim Dean Thomas W. Mitchell recently worked together in Washington D.C. as part of “Aggies on the Hill,” meeting with policy makers and legislators.

Interim Dean Mitchell closed the ceremony by asking the class of 2018 to bring the same determination they summoned to complete law school to tackling their next challenges – passing the bar exam and being a practicing lawyer. He wished for the graduates to “put into action the A&M core values” in their professional careers helping people to cope with problems, overcome hardships and realize dreams.

Accomplishments of the Class of 2018

Equal Justice Program

This year’s graduating class contributed more than 6,600 legal pro bono hours in service to the community, with 19 graduates completing more than 100 legal pro bono hours each.

Judicial Clerkships

Seven students secured judicial clerkships, three at the federal level and four at the state level:

  • Allen Al-Haj, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas
  • Lorena Guajardo, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas
  • Stephanie Assi, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts
  • Henrik Strand, Texas Supreme Court
  • Megan Reed, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Nicholas Vail, 11th District Court of Appeals, Texas
  • Catherine Stanley Wirth, 11th District Court of Appeals, Texas

Advocacy Competition Success, including Best Advocate Award

  • Travis Alley placed second at the 18th Annual ABA Representation in Mediation Regional Competition.
  • Amanda "Robin" Donnelly and Jonathan "Tripp" Jones were semi-finalists in the mediation tract of the INADR International Mediation Competition.
  • Kelsey Fahler and Jonathan ​"Tripp" Jones placed third at the 2018 Southwest Regional Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition where Jones also won the Best Advocate award. The team advanced to the national finals.
  • Christopher Hamilton and Jessica Holtman placed second at the 2017 Sports Law Negotiation Competition.
  • Élan Moore won the 2017 regional Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition, finished second in the 2017 national competition, and placed third at the 2018 regional competition.
  • Grant Moore won the Region 11 2018 ABA Client Counseling Competition, placed in the top four at the national finals, and placed third in the arbitration round and second in the Advocates Choice award of the 2017 FINRA Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon.
  • Kriti Sharma, Amanda "Robin" Donnelly and Tyla Evans were semi-finalists at the National Criminal Trial Advocacy Competition.

National Advocacy Training (supported by the Charles Koch Grant):

Five graduates who participated in the Criminal Justice Scholars and Advocates class attended national conferences as part of the grant:

  • Nathan Davis – American Bar Association 31st Annual White Collar Crime Conference, Miami
  • Tyla Evans – 2017 LEAD Conference: Moving from Research to Policy & Practice to Improve the Lives of Youth, Washington, D.C.
  • Madeline Pricer – 2017 DC Prisoner & Reentry Symposium: State of Our Union, Washington, D.C.
  • Kriti Sharma – 2017 DC Prisoner & Reentry Symposium: State of Our Union, Washington, D.C.
  • Shelby Sterling – 2017 National Conference on Juvenile Justice, New York City

In addition, the grant and matching funds provided by the Texas A&M Foundation provided funds for students to work with the ​Executive Secretariat as part of the 35th Symposium on Economic Crime in Cambridge, England, in September 2017:

  • Tyla Evans, Madeline Pricer, Kriti Sharma and Shelby Sterling


External Law Review Publications and Writing Awards

  • Megan Reed's article “Senate Bill 4: Police Officers' Opinions on Texas's Ban of Sanctuary Cities,” ​will be published in the UCLA Chicana/o-Latina/o Law Review

  • Vermont Journal of Environmental Law’s White River Environmental Law Writing Competition:
    • Kyle Weldon — winner, “Animal Agriculture’s Air Emission Regulation Post Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA
    • Hope Shelton — runner up, “Conservation in Texas: Bridging the Gap between Public Good and Private Lands Using Landowner Incentive Programs”
    Both will be published in the third issue of Volume 19 of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law.

Reports and White Papers

XVI World Water Congress Ambassadors

Colton LauerHope Shelton and Lola Wilson worked with Professor Gabriel Eckstein and Congress leadership to execute the global event held in Mexico that advance​d water resources knowledge, policy and management around the world, hosting more than 100 sessions, 400 speakers and panelists, and over 1,100 attendees from more than 65 countries, addressing a wide range of water-related science and policy issues.

Order of Barristers

Ten students were inducted into the Order of Barristers, a national honorary organization that recognizes demonstrated excellence in oral and written advocacy skills.

  • Stephanie Assi, Kelsey Fahler, Elisabeth Fairbanks, Christopher Hamilton, Jessica Holtman, Jonathan “Tripp” Jones, Meredith Livermore, Élan Moore, Grant Moore and Melissa Rust
Graduation 2018 photo collage

See more images from the graduation ceremony on Flickr

Photography by Doug Thurman, Texas A&M University School of Law