Fall 2020


Class of 2020: Graduating Together, From Afar

By James Weir

2020 Graduates congratulation sign

Before the pandemic forced Michigan Law to postpone Senior Day, David Louison was chosen by his peers to deliver the student keynote. A month or so into COVID-19 lockdown, as the Law School prepared an online celebration for the graduating 3Ls, LLMs, and SJDs—an in-person ceremony is planned for 2021—Louison went for a walk to consider what a virtual commencement speech could look like.

“I was just thinking, ‘Am I going to do a speech at all?’ And I realized all bets were off, and I could bring in the other nominees,” says Louison. “We could address the student body as a united front, to show that we are still together, even if things had fallen apart.”

The loss of a traditional Senior Day denied the Class of 2020 a milestone event they had earned through their study, life, and achievement in the Quad. 

“I wanted to bring my classmates’ voices in for several reasons: to show unity and to diversify the perspective of the address,” says Louison. “All five of us are different—we had different law school experiences, we were involved in different clubs and activities—so where I might have been shortsighted in a certain area, where I might not think to address a certain group of people at the school, they could bring that perspective. We all lost a lot, so I wanted them to have something too, for themselves and for their friends and families.”

Louison (pictured above, center) reached out to Austin Del Priore, Katie Chan, Anna Belkin, and Brenna Twohy (left to right), who were the other keynote nominees voted on by the student body. Despite the demands of finishing law school, with looming finals and deadlines for final papers, the students came together and worked collaboratively on the text, and then filmed their socially distant video segments in an empty Law Quad.

“We had two weeks to do it, so we brainstormed on a video call and worked on the speech, each of us bringing in our own experiences. I’m so happy with the way it turned out,” says Louison. “Our journeys here deserve that we take the time to reflect on the work that got us here, and we can’t let the circumstances distract from our achievements. Nothing can take those efforts away from the Class of 2020.”

More From This Issue