“The community is very tight – that’s what makes Queen’s so special,” says Julia Martschenko, Law’19, one of 207 students who received JD degrees on the sunny afternoon of June 6. “Unlike most other schools, there are not many commuters here; that fosters this sense of being a family. The amazing professors are all so highly qualified that I know I’m well equipped for whatever opportunities present themselves.” 

Family, friends, faculty and staff filled historic Grant Hall to cheer on the newest JD and undergraduate Certificate in Law graduates, and this year’s honorary Doctor of Laws recipient Fiona Sampson, Law’93

In Canada and other Commonwealth countries, Sampson is a highly respected human rights advocate for the rights of survivors of sexual violence. She delivered an inspiring address to the Class of 2019.  

“We are living in turbulent and unstable times, and the power that comes with a law school education provides an opportunity to create positive change that can be personally rewarding,” she said. “For me, using the law to protect and promote the rights of women and girls has been hugely satisfying work, which never feels like work.”

She shared “two ingredients of the recipe for progress” she has found invaluable. 

“First is the support and guidance I received from the interdisciplinary teams and personal pit crews in my life, including the amazing profs I had at Queen’s, the inspirational beneficiaries of the human rights initiatives I collaborate on, the friends and colleagues who are so generous with their time and energy, and family who are unconditional with their love – these are all relationships that provide an invaluable anchor when needed, and that I celebrate today.” 

The second ingredient, she continued, is “embracing discomfort as an opportunity for change, and knowing that the stronger the resistance to change, the more likely you are on the right path. Embracing discomfort and placing yourself outside the norm may be risky at times, but maybe you’ll find inspiration in the story of the 160 Girls, and knowing that if 160 girls, all rape victims between the ages of 3 and 17, have the courage and fortitude to demand justice from their government, and win, it is definitely possible to beat the odds, and use the law to create positive change!”  

Several awards were presented during the ceremony. Law Medals were given to graduates with the highest cumulative averages: Siobhan Morris, Megan Pfiffer, and Julia Martschenko. Megan Pfiffer also received the Dean’s Key award for best embodying community values, collegiality, professionalism, service and academic excellence. Adam Grotsky was presented the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award, the highest honour given to a Queen’s student for valuable and distinguished service. Associate Dean (Academic) Professor Erik Knutsen accepted the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award for his outstanding influence on the quality of student learning. 

Following the ceremony, the new graduates and their guests enjoyed a reception in Ban Righ Hall. There, Dean Bill Flanagan presented the Dean’s Scholar to the graduates with the highest third-year averages: Siobhan Morris (Gold Scholar), Mitchell Meraw (Silver Scholar), and Jennifer Weeks (Bronze Scholar).

Video interviews with a few 2019 graduates