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Two Year-End Events Celebrate University's Commitment to Egalitarian Education

The Suffolk University Archives hold thousands of treasures reflecting the school’s history, among them a hand-written note by founder Gleason Leonard Archer. ". . . in all its history, Suffolk has never barred from its classrooms any student because of race, or color, or religion, or because of financial condition. . . . Every worthy student with the equivalent of a day high school education is given [a] chance to prove that he can do college-grade work."
Suffolk Law School class photo from the early 1910s

Suffolk Law School class photo from the early 1910s

“When Gleason Archer established Suffolk University, it was quite revolutionary to be enrolling people based on academic merit alone,” says University Records Manager Michael P. Dello Iacono. “He was determined to make sure that education was available to all qualified candidates, regardless of race, religion or background.” 

Building on the promise of its founding, Suffolk University continues to attract and inspire a diverse student body. Today there are 20 groups and associations representing various backgrounds and cultures. To celebrate the 2013 graduating class' commitment to diversity, Suffolk will host two special events: the 29th Annual Passing of the Gavel ceremony on Thursday, April 18 and the 1913 Celebration on Friday, May 17. 

The Passing of the Gavel recognizes the outgoing and incoming e-boards of Suffolk University's Cultural Affinity Student Groups.

"We are excited that the Rainbow Alliance is participating," says Jacinda Félix Haro, director of the Office of Diversity Services. "Rainbow members were previously honored at a different event, however we have always wanted them to be part of this celebration, which brings everyone together as a community."

Student affinity groups, a vital part of Suffolk University, “enhance the ways in which we welcome, value and support diverse members of the campus community,” says Haro.

The 1913 Celebration

In 1913, Thaddeus Alexander Kitchener from Kingston, Jamaica, was the first student of color to graduate from Suffolk Law School. One hundred years after conferring Kitchener’s degree, Suffolk has become an internationally acclaimed university with students from 107 countries. Forty-two percent of the student body is diverse – representing different cultures, backgrounds, genders and sexual orientation. 

In honor of the centennial anniversary of Kitchener’s graduation from Suffolk and the school’s commitment to diversity, a signature event will take place during commencement week on Friday, May 17. The 1913 Celebration, sponsored by the Alumni Association, the President's Diversity Commission, the Office of Diversity Services and the Office of International Student Services is a recognition ceremony for graduating LGBTQ students, international students and students of color. 

“This new event offers a great opportunity to meet and network with alumni who are actively involved with the Office of Diversity Services,” says Elizabeth Conley, director of Student & Young Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving in the Office of Advancement. “We hope that they will be inspired to continue their affiliation with us as they become Suffolk Alumni.”

During the event, Dean of Students Nancy Stoll will distribute stoles and tassels with Haro. Each affinity group has a unique stole design, which will be worn during graduation. 

Morijieta Derisier, ’08 is the 1913 Celebration’s keynote speaker. While at Suffolk she was a Trustee Ambassador, Step Team president, a member of the Caribbean Student Network, Black Student Union and the Sociology Society. She established her own law practice after graduating from Massachusetts School of Law and is the co-founder of Morning Dew Realty.

Suffolk University Firsts

Throughout Suffolk University’s history, graduates have gone on to achieve many firsts.
Ivorey Cobb, a 1960 Law School graduate became the first African American to be appointed as a judge in New Hampshire in 1964.
Nelson D. Simons, 1925 was the first Native American graduate. He later became chief of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Hom Dow was the first Chinese American to pass the Massachusetts Bar.