Browner Speaks at Graduation, Hawkins Awarded Honorary Degree
The Levin College of Law 2001 senior class of 228 graduated May 19, marking the beginning of what some have waited for all their lives. Many will begin their careers as attorneys, while others continue their education at UF. Of the 201 students graduating with a Juris Doctorate, 25 graduated with high honors and 69 with honors. The LL.M. in Comparative Law was awarded to 10, bringing to 73 the number of students graduated since the Comparative Law Masters Program began in 1994. The Graduate Tax Program awarded 17 L.L.M in Taxation degrees, bringing the total to 1,554 since the program began in 1975. Carol Browner (UF ’79), former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, as the result of an invitation from Dean Jon Mills, spoke to graduates on the importance of public service. Browner emphasized using legal skills to make the world a better place. Graduation took place at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and was coordinated by the Office of Student Affairs. “The ceremony was beautiful and moving,” said Associate Dean Gail Sasnett. In addition to the 228 degrees awarded, the Levin College of Law also recognized the work of an individual who made many sacrifices to further equality of UF’s legal education. An honorary degree was presented to Virgil Hawkins, the first black to apply for admission to the law school — though he was denied on multiple occasions. Harriet Livingston, Hawkins’ sister, accepted the degree on his behalf. The honorary degree for Hawkins was first bestowed by UF itself in main campus graduation ceremonies held May 2. Following law school commencement, an oil painting provided by the Black Law Students Association of Hawkins, who died at age 81 in 1988, was unveiled in the lobby of UF’s Virgil Hawkins Law Clinic, which was dedicated to Hawkins in 1989. “This is truly a tribute to Mr. Hawkins for the sacrifices he made to open the door for others,” said Sasnett. “His niece, Halle Williams, made the best remark, that ‘justice delayed is still justice,’” said law school Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Study of Race and Race Relations Rahim Reed. To participate in the university’s and law school’s honoring of Hawkins’ efforts, family, faculty and alumni attended the portrait unveiling. Distinguished guests included Harley Herman, alumnus of the law school and friend of and advocate for Hawkins; Craig Gibbs, president of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association; State Rep. Ed Jennings Jr; Judge Stephan Mickle, UF law alumnus and federal district court judge in the northern district of Florida; and Carol Browner, commencement speaker and Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute. “The combination of the Virgil Hawkins award and the most appropriate remarks of Carol Browner created a most inspiring ceremony,” Mills said.