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Willamette Law to celebrate its 137th Commencement on May 21

by Jessica Rotter,

2022 Commencement

The College of Law prepares to celebrate the Class of 2023. 

The College will welcome The Honorable Erin Lagesen JD'00 as the speaker for its 137th Commencement held at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, May 21, on the Quad. The ceremony will also honor Professor of Law Emeritus & Former Dean Leroy Tornquist as the Law Faculty Member of the Year, Professor Caroline Davidson as the recipient of the Robert L. Misner Award for Law Faculty Scholarship, and graduate Larraina Erland JD'23 as the Class of 2023 valedictorian. 

Commencement Speaker Chief Judge Lagesen 

Chief Judge Erin Lagesen JD'00
Chief Judge Erin Lagesen JD'00

Chief Judge Erin Lagesen has been a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals since 2013. She was the presiding judge of the court’s Department Three from 2017 through 2021 before becoming the court’s Chief Judge in 2022.  

Prior to receiving her law degree from Willamette Law in 2000, Chief Judge Lagesen taught high school mathematics. She began her legal career by clerking for Judge Susan Graber of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She then worked in the litigation section at Stoel Rives before joining the Appellate Division of the Oregon Department of Justice in 2004. In the Appellate Division, Chief Judge Lagesen handled a wide range of civil, criminal, and administrative appeals. 

Chief Judge Lagesen is an elected member of the American Law Institute and  a long-time member of the Oregon State Bar Constitutional Law section where she served on the section’s executive committee and was the past chair.

Law Faculty Member of the Year Award

Professor Leroy Tornquist
Professor Leroy Tornquist

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

Professor Tornquist served as dean of the College of Law from 1979 to 1986. During his service as dean, he championed dispute resolution long before it became a standard part of the curriculum and imported an intensive trial practice program he began at Loyola University’s law school in Chicago. The program is designed to simulate what it feels like to give a deposition, deliver an opening statement, and more generally to think on one’s feet. 

Tornquist is renowned as a specialist in trial practice, evidence and civil procedure.  Accordingly, after returning to the faculty following his distinguished service as dean, he taught civil procedure, evidence, negotiation and trial advocacy. Additionally, he remained active as a scholar, writing books and articles on evidence, negotiation, trial practice, civil procedure and dispute resolution. He took Emeritus status in 2011 but remained engaged as a part-time faculty member by continuing to teach.

Between his time as dean and as a prominent member of the faculty, Professor Tornquist has left a lasting impression at Willamette. The Class of 2023 recognized both the significance of his accomplishments and contributions and also that an award of this kind did not exist while he was a member of the full-time faculty.  As such, the Class of 2023 found it fitting to recognize his ongoing commitment to the College of Law. 

“I am so pleased that the Class of 2023 selected Professor Tornquist for this honor. Professor Tornquist is a shining example of how our faculty places students at the forefront of everything we do,” says Willamette Law Dean Brian Gallini

Robert L. Misner Award for Faculty Scholarship

Professor Caroline Davidson
Professor Caroline Davidson

As recommended by the College of Law and awarded by the Office of the Provost, the Robert L. Misner Award for Law Faculty Scholarship is awarded each year to a Willamette University College of Law professor whose scholarship has contributed significantly to the national or international legal canon. 

This year’s recipient is Professor Caroline Davidson. Professor Davidson teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, international criminal law, and international human rights. Her scholarship explores international and comparative criminal law and human rights, in recent years with a focus on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Most recently, her scholarly work earned her a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award. Professor Davidson spent the past semester in Colombia, where she has conducted research on the treatment of SGBV in Colombian courts. In particular, her work compares the approach toward SGBV taken at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a special transitional justice mechanism established as part of the Colombian peace agreement, with that of the ordinary criminal justice system. 

“Professor Davidson’s scholarly work is, in a word, transformative and I’m so pleased to see her receive this well-deserved recognition,” commented Karen Sandrik, Associate Dean for Faculty. 

Aristeion Symeon Symeonides Awards Goes to Valedictorian Larraina Erland JD’23

Larraina Erland JD'23
Larraina Erland JD'23

The valedictorian for the Class of 2023 is Larraina Erland.

As valedictorian, Erland 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 GPS 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 on Sunday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m. PDT, on the Quad at Willamette University. The ceremony will also be broadcast live online.

About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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