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Willamette Law to celebrate its 136th Commencement in person May 15

by Sarah Bello,

Law commencement

For the first time in two years, Willamette Law graduates will walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

The school will welcome The Honorable Darleen Ortega as the speaker for its 136th Commencement held at 11:25 a.m., Sunday, May 15, on the Quad. The ceremony will also honor two members of the law community as it announces Assistant Professor Kelly Gamble as the Law Faculty Member of the Year and graduates Megann Elizabeth Meier and Derek Olson as the Class of 2022 co-valedictorians. 

Commencement Speaker Judge Darleen Ortega

Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Darleen Ortega will give the commencement address, focusing on the role of belonging in the law. Judge Ortega is the first woman of color and the only Latina to serve as an appellate judge in Oregon. 

Before becoming a judge, she practiced law for 14 years, focusing on all types of civil litigation at the trial and appellate levels. In her time on the bench, she has distinguished herself as a court leader on issues of juvenile dependency and on efforts to address the structural inequities that affect operation of the legal system.

Judge Ortega teaches Access to Justice at the College of Law. She is also a frequent speaker on topics related to equity, privilege, combating structural and internalized racism and oppression, and learning to recognize and value the perspectives of people at the margins. She spends hours with law students and new lawyers, especially those from marginalized communities, helping them navigate the legal world. Among her many outside activities, she is a co-founder of OneGeorgeFox, an alumni organization of George Fox University supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Law Faculty Member of the Year Award

As voted on by the graduating class, the Law Faculty Member of the Year Award is given to the faculty member whose teaching has had a significant impact on the class. This year’s award will go to Assistant Professor Kelly Gamble. 

Before coming to Willamette in 2019, Professor Gamble had experience in both litigation and transactions as a labor and employment attorney. She also spent several years teaching high school English, composition and literature. 

At the College of Law, Professor Gamble teaches required first-year law courses in legal writing, which are notoriously difficult for students. Professor Gamble’s classes have consistently noted that her high standards, coupled with her teaching skills, create authentic learning. Her high-quality, individualized feedback makes her one of the students’ most formative professors in their first year. 

Professor Gamble also leads programming around Academic Excellence, which is designed to facilitate the development of academic skills for students to be successful in law school and beyond. In collaboration with colleagues, she helps ensure students receive mentorship and support throughout their law school journey. 

“Professor Gamble’s commitment to her students and this institution is evidenced by her extraordinary success in connecting with students both in and out of the classroom,” Dean Brian Gallini says. “Her innovative teaching techniques rightly make her one of the students’ favorite professors, and I am not the least bit surprised that they selected her for this award.”

Aristeion Symeon Symeonides Awards goes to co-valedictorians Megann Elizabeth Meier JD’22 and Derek Olson JD’22

The valedictorians for the Class of 2022 are Megann Elizabeth Meier and Derek Olson. 

As valedictorians, Meier and Olson will receive the Aristeion Symeon Symeonides Award for having earned the highest grades in the class. Established in 2010, this award is given every year at commencement to the student with the highest GPA in the College of Law graduating class. The award is also accompanied by a commemorative plaque and a medallion to be worn at commencement. The award was named for and funded by the 19th dean of Willamette Law, Symeon C. Symeonides.

Ceremony details

Plan to attend the in-person commencement ceremony Sunday, May 15, at 11:25 a.m. PDT, on the Quad at Willamette University. The ceremony will also be broadcast live online.

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