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U.S. Sen. Angus King to Maine Law graduates: ‘Take more risks’

May 20, 2014

The University of Maine School of Law awarded J.D. degrees to 96 students, and post-professional LL.M. degrees to six students on Saturday, May 17, 2014. The law school also awarded more than two dozen merit awards to graduates. About 500 family members and friends attended the ceremony at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium.

The Hon. Angus King Jr., United States Senator and former Governor of Maine, was the keynote speaker. King recalled his own graduation from the University of Virginia Law School in 1969. He offered the Maine Law graduates 10 pieces of advice he wished he had known then.

“Number one: Take more risks. It’s ok to fail. We are most constrained not by other people, not by rules, not by government, but by the little man that sits on our shoulder and says you can’t do that, you can’t try that,” King said. “I’m talking about stretching yourself and trying to do things you think are beyond your capacity.”

Eleanor Baker, co-founder and managing principal at the accounting firm Baker Newman Noyes, received the 2014 L. Kinvin Wroth Award. The award, named after former Law School Dean L. Kinvin Wroth, honors a Maine Law graduate who has achieved distinction in his or her career by contributing as a leader, locally, nationally or globally, and who has helped advance his or her alma mater. Baker is an accomplished business leader and a widely respected civic leader. Based in Portland, Baker Newman Noyes employs about 200 people in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Baker graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 1978, and has remained an engaged and enthusiastic supporter of the Law School.

Stanley R. Tupper III of Jefferson, Maine, was the student speaker. Tupper is in his early 50s, has a storied background, including a life-long interest in flying. He built an amphibious airplane from scratch some years ago and still enjoys flying a 1957 Piper SuperCub.

Although the members of the 2014 class took their own unique paths to Maine Law, they are united by a desire to stand up against injustice, Tupper said. He recalled a story from his youth of a boy who would not take his shirt off while swimming. When Tupper caught a glimpse of the boy’s back, he saw the red marks from where he had been beaten. A law degree provides access for people to stand up on behalf of victims of injustice, Tupper said.

“The powerless are victimized again and again, and that is where we can push back now,” he said. “We can incrementally move the world toward a more fair, more just, more kind place.”

Ninety-six students were awarded J.D. degrees, among them:

Kevin Decker of Shapleigh, Maine. Graduating first in his class, Kevin moves on to clerk for Judge William J. Kayatta, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Kevin has been a student attorney for the Law School’s Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, where he successfully argued a case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Sara Murphy of Erie, Pa., and Chilmark, Mass. Sara came to Maine Law from California, where she worked as an actor, and she quickly established herself as a leader within the class of 2014. She has been a Bernstein Fellow, a summer associate at Pierce Atwood, and was the Charles Harvey Trial Immersion Fellow in 2013. Sara will clerk for the Hon. Leigh I. Saufley (Maine Law ’80), Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

State Reps. Michael Carey of Lewiston, and Alexander Willette of Mapleton. These outstanding graduates juggled the demands of a legal education with the demands of representing their constituents in Augusta. Michael has been hired by the Brann & Isaacson law firm in his hometown of Lewiston, while Alex will practice law in his native Aroostook County.

Christopher Marot of Willimantic, Conn., has been selected as a Frank M. Coffin Family Law Fellow. The Coffin Fellows are selected from applicants nationwide. Based at the Portland office of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, the Fellows represent low-income Mainers in family law cases. The fellowship is named after Frank M. Coffin, Senior Circuit Judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. It is a fitting tribute to his years of public service and specifically, his commitment to legal aid for the poor. Chris formerly taught high school history in New London, Conn. During his time at Maine Law he has worked as a student-attorney at the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic.

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