GW Law School Fall 2003
A Magazine for Alumni and Friends

Lessons in Leadership

By Laura Ewald

GW Law commencement ceremonies are always a marriage of tradition and new beginnings, as pomp and circumstance send graduates into the future. That statement is especially true this year, as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), JD ’64, who spoke to the Class of 2005 at the diploma ceremony in the Smith Center May 22, discussed how lessons from his past at GW Law shaped his present career. Reid’s relationship with the Law School—the ups and downs of which he discussed candidly in his address—was renewed as he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

And earlier that day, for the first time, the Law School took part in GW's commencement on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument. As GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said while observing the fine spring sunlight, “no university in America . . . has as nice a place for its graduation ceremony.” Along with the rest of the University, GW Law graduates were treated to the wit and wisdom of longtime 60 Minutes correspondent Andy Rooney, who received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

At the Charles E. Smith Athletic Center ceremony, Interim Dean Roger Trangsrud paid tribute to the past and present by welcoming both the new graduates and the “Old Guard,” alumni from the classes of 1955 and before. Russell E. Carlisle, JD ’55, served as Grand Marshal of the Old Guard. Earlier that morning, the Old Guard was recognized at a special brunch in the Steven A. and Barbara Tasher Great Room of the Jacob Burns Law Library attended by Reid and Trangsrud.


Interim Dean Roger Trangsrud with members of the graduating class.

Photos by Abdul El-Tayef/WPPI

Trangsrud thanked the Class of 2005 for donating the first “Senior Class Gift” to the Law School. The class gift benefits GW Law School’s Loan Reimbursement Assistance Program, which provides loan forgiveness to a significant number of alumni serving as government attorneys or working on behalf of the public interest.

Professor Gregory E. Maggs received the Distinguished Faculty Service Award, presented each year by the Juris Doctor class. Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Teaching Awards went to David E. Brunori, BA ’84, MA ’94; Francis A. Gilligan, LLM ’70, SJD ’76; and Kenneth E. Melson, JD ’73. Emeritus status was conferred on Professors Lynn E. Cunningham and Gerald P. Johnston. Daniel Diggs, BA ’03, Law School systems specialist, received the Distinguished Staff Service Award.

Three students were recognized during the ceremony for their accomplishments. The John Bell Larner Award went to Kimberly L. Sikora Panza for the highest cumulative average in the entire course for the Juris Doctor degree. Thomas A. Janczewski received the Anne Wells Branscomb Award for the highest cumulative average in the part-time evening division. The Class of 2005 awarded Christina D. Rodriquez with the Dillon Cooley Memorial Award.


Reid stands with President Trachtenberg, who displays the honorary Doctor of Laws degree awarded to Reid by the University during the ceremony.

The road to Washington for Reid began in Searchlight, Nev. The hard-rock miner’s son’s strong work ethic guided him through Utah State University and GW Law—while taking evening classes, he worked as a Capitol police officer to support his young family. Reid’s public service career includes acting as Nevada’s youngest lieutenant governor, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, and two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he introduced the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In his current post, he relies on his reputation as a hard worker and fair player to unite both sides of the aisle.

Reid, living up to his political reputation as a straight-shooter, said that an important lesson he learned at “one of the world’s finest law schools” he learned the hard way. While balancing the demands of being a full-time law student, Capitol policeman, husband, and father, Reid fell on to hard financial times and sought advice from a Law School dean. Reid says the dean suggested he quit his law studies, which in turn discouraged Reid. But out of disappointment came the lessons of determination and forgiveness, traits Reid said are key to his political career.

Reid, who has been a central figure in the dialogue surrounding recent judicial filibusters, said bipartisan teamwork is crucial on the matter to free up time for finding solutions to key problems the nation faces today—“rising gas prices, failing pensions, failing schools, and a wobbly economy.”

“My advice is that you play the game hard, play by the rules, and if the game goes against you, work harder, train harder, and play again,” Reid said. “And whatever you do, don’t quit.”

Professor Gregory Maggs received the Distinguished Faculty Service Award.

Graduates, guests, and members of the Law School community celebrate in Kogan Plaza after the ceremony.

Former GW Board of Trustees member Jean Fugett, JD ’81; Sen. Harry Reid (D.-N.V.), JD ’64; Interim Dean Roger Trangsrud; Vice Chairman of the GW Board of Trustees Patricia Gurne, JD ’69; and Chairman of the GW Board of Trustees Charles T. Manatt, JD ’62, await the start of the diploma ceremony.

Members of the Old Guard were recognized by Dean Trangsrud during the ceremony.

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