On Monday, May 14, 1990, I graduated from The University of Pennsylvania Law School.
On Sunday, May 14, 2017, I’m letting my heart take a sentimental journey to renew that memory.
If this were a fairy tale that subscribed to that cliche “Once Upon A Time” opening, the tale would read something like this: “Once Upon A Time, there was a little girl who wanted to become a Poet Laureate when she grew up, but instead became a lawyer . This little girl wrote her first book report on “Every Day Law Made Simple” and delivered said book report orally in class when she was 10 years old. She was quite proud of that book report. Her classmates, though, were quite bored and unimpressed. This little girl also watched “Perry Mason” reruns and became enamored by trial advocacy. From 1979 through 1983, she attended The Philadelphia High School for Girls with her eyes trained on law school. Despite graduating from high school with a Cum Laude distinction, she was rejected by Ivy League school The University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently, she attended Temple University on academic scholarships where she received her degree in Political Science, Magna Cum Laude on Thursday, May 21, 1987 (and was elected into the oldest honor society for the Liberal Arts in the United States, Phi Beta Kappa). From the “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again” department, even though she was rejected 4 years earlier by The University of Pennsylvania College of Liberal Arts, this time she applied to The University of Pennsylvania Law School, was accepted and on Friday, July 3, 1987 (the day before her 22nd birthday) she received a full academic scholarship to law school that covered her tuition and fees. The End.”
Well, not really the end because 3 years of law school were rigorous. Yet, the intellectual stimulation was unmatched. Criminal Law and Procedure, Constitutional Law, Torts, Evidence, Trial Advocacy, Moot Court, law journals, The Penn Legal Assistance Office…if I were to follow Julie Andrews lead in “The Sound of Music” these were a few of my favorite things.
Then law school graduation day. Monday, May 14, 1990 was uncharacteristically hot for Philadelphia in May (92 degrees) and unlike my graduation from Temple University three years earlier in a nicely air conditioned convention center, The University of Pennsylvania thought that it was a great idea for us to bake outside on the lawn facing the historical Second Bank Building. And bake we did. Still, I was (and remain) extremely grateful when I recall the moment when I received my Juris Doctorate Degree from then Law School Dean Colin Diver. It was a particularly poignant moment for me because I served as a first year law student in 1988 on the Dean’s Search Committee. We selected Dean Diver to replace Dean Robert Mundheim.
I remember the exact time when Dean Diver placed the JD in my hand (3:33 p.m.) because I paused to look at my watch as I was on the podium (hence the expression on my face in my graduation picture). Ever since I was a little girl, my mind has had the uncanny ability to remember dates and times.
I was 24 years old on May 14, 1990, full of optimism about life. 27 years later, the optimism is but a memory. In its place, gratitude has become the rule of the day. Even when I’m overwhelmed by sorrow, I cling to gratitude with the same desperation as one would cling to a buoy to keep afloat.
Sunday, May 14, 2017 is also Mother’s Day. My heart continues to mourn my mother who passed away on Tuesday, May 10, 2005. Every day I miss her. Every day I celebrate her. It is because of my mother who believed in me unquestionably that I was in the position to achieve all that I was able to achieve in my life.
On Sunday, May 14, 2017, I’m letting my heart take a sentimental journey to the destination stop of Monday, May 14, 1990 where I will let the memory of my law school graduation live again.
By the way, this fairy tale does boast a grateful ending: This little girl who graduated from law school 27 years ago today was finally able to realize her writing dream last year when she published numerous poetry books. As of 2016, she now makes her living as a full-time writer.