May 10, 2016

Law school commencement ceremony is Friday

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Kim Foxx, a former Cook County assistant state’s attorney and two-degree Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumna, will deliver the keynote address during the commencement ceremony for the SIU School of Law on Friday, May 13. 

The commencement ceremony for 91 graduates -- including three who will receive a joint J.D./Master of Business Administration degree -- is at 3 p.m. in Shryock Auditorium on the Carbondale campus. In addition, one graduate will receive a joint J.D./Master of Public Administration degree and nine graduates will receive Master of Legal Studies degrees. SIU Carbondale Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell will confer the degrees at the ceremony led by School of Law Dean Cynthia Fountaine. The commencement is free and open to the public. 

A 1997 SIU School of Law graduate, Foxx earned a bachelor’s degree from SIU Carbondale in political science in 1994. A Chicago native, Foxx spent 12 years as assistant state’s attorney in Cook County, including nearly five years as supervisor of the juvenile justice bureau. Most recently, Foxx worked as chief of staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, overseeing a $4 billion annual budget. Foxx is the Democratic candidate for Cook County state’s attorney in November. 

Foxx previously served on the Chicago Council of Lawyers board and was a 2010 Illinois State Bar Association Diversity Leadership Fellow. She received the 2012 Commitment to Justice Award from the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice for her work in juvenile justice. She was a 2014 Edgar Leadership Fellow, and sits on the advisory board of the University of Illinois Institute of Government & Public Affairs. She is also on the Adler University Board of Trustees. 

The ceremony marks the 40th anniversary of the law school’s first graduating class in 1976, and several members of that class will attend. Thomas Britton, a member of the charter class and a former faculty member, associate dean and acting dean, was named this year’s “Outstanding Faculty Member” by the graduating class and will speak. Aaron O’Brien, chosen by his classmates to represent the Class of 2016, will also speak at the ceremony. 

The ceremony will also recognize nine Turkish human rights lawyers detained since their arrest in March with the law school’s Rule of Law Citation. The citation is a formal recognition by the law school faculty of the important tradition of the legal profession that “requires lawyers to stand firm in support of liberty and justice in the face of oppression and, by their words and actions, to honor and support the Rule of Law, even at great personal risk.” 

A commencement hood and scroll placed on an empty chair in the front row with law school faculty symbolizes the law school standing with lawyers who are suffering for the Rule of Law. 

The nine attorneys were arrested based on allegations they were members of an “illegal organization.” The lawyers, however, according to the Rule of Law citation, “are known for their work representing minority groups and people accused of terrorism and crimes against the state.”