Derrick Johnson ’97 — NAACP President and CEO and STCL Houston Alumnus — Addresses Graduates at May 2019 Commencement
Nearly 260 newly minted attorneys accepted their South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) diplomas at the law school’s May 2019 commencement ceremony on Saturday.
In front of approximately 2,000 friends and family members, the new graduates from fall 2018, spring 2019, and summer 2019 celebrated their shared accomplishment at the George R. Brown Convention Center, followed by a reception at the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel in downtown just blocks from their alma mater.
The youngest STCL Houston 2019 graduate is 23 and the oldest is 52.
Donald J. Guter, retired rear admiral, JAGC, USN — president and dean of STCL Houston and 37thjudge advocate general of the U.S. Navy — presided over the ceremony and provided the law school’s welcome, applauding the honorees’ hard work and integrity, and noting that the faculty are “confident that… as South Texas graduates, [they] will enter the world’s noblest profession well-prepared to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
The students and guests then enjoyed an inspiring commencement address by STCL Houston alumnus Derrick Johnson ’97, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Johnson’s administration, which began in October 2017, is focused on re-envisioning and reinvigorating the nation’s 110-year-old, premier civil rights organization. As his NAACP bio notes, “Johnson is a veteran activist who has dedicated his career to defending the rights and improving the lives of Mississippians. As state president of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, he led critical campaigns for voting rights and equitable education. Johnson also provided legal, technical, and training support for communities across the South.”
Following Hurricane Katrina, Johnson founded One Voice Inc., a nonprofit organization with the mission of ensuring an equal voice for traditionally silenced communities across the South. The nonprofit improves the quality of life for African Americans through civic engagement training and initiatives.
Johnson shared with the students that, “We are in the midst of very troubling times both socially and politically in this country. We’re in an environment that is again, tolerant of racial hatred, but as citizens — black and white — we need to say that this is not acceptable. So I present this challenge to you, no — a responsibility as the future guardians of the law of the land — to ensure that the protections of all people are more secure, and to expand them for your generation and those who will soon follow you. As you go forward from this place, I hope that you will not only do well — but you will also do good.”
December 2018 valedictorian David A. Trausch and May 2019 valedictorian Ryan S. Fuller addressed their fellow graduates at the ceremony and commended their dedication and tenacity in earning a law degree. “We have all worked very hard, we have so much to be proud of, and so much to look forward to,” said Trausch.
Fuller noted, “South Texas equipped us with the tools necessary to become the best Houston has to offer; now we have both the opportunity and the privilege to go into the world and advocate on behalf of those who need it the most.”
John J. Worley, associate dean, vice president, and professor of law, provided the official “presentation of graduates.” Professors Josh Blackman, Matthew J. Festa, Maxine D. Goodman, Helen Bishop Jenkins, Bruce A. McGovern, Shelby A.D. Moore, Amanda J. Peters, and Njeri I. Mathis Rutledge served as faculty hood-masters.
Several members of the South Texas College of Law Houston board of directors participated in the event, including Larry Baillargeon ’74, Genora Boykins ’85, Stewart Gagnon ’74, Michael Hays ’74, J. Ken Johnson ’86, Imogen “Immy” Papadopoulos ’84, Gordon Quan ‘77, and Randy Sorrels ’87.