Commencement Speaker Archives

Rob Beard, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Micron Technology

headshot of rob beard wearing a gray button down in front of a solid black background

Rob is responsible for Micron’s global legal, intellectual property, and compliance and ethics functions, comprising a team of lawyers, paralegals and other professionals. He was appointed to this position in 2021.

Rob joined Micron in 2014 and has previously led the legal teams supporting Micron’s corporate and global operations functions. Before joining Micron, he worked at international law firms Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Shearman and Sterling LLP, where he led mergers and acquisitions and other strategic transactions in complex, cross-border capital markets. Rob also advised on public company disclosure and corporate governance matters.

Rob graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in political science and earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law.

Luke Cooper L’01, Founding Managing Partner, Latimer Ventures

luke cooper smiling in a red shirt, black pants, and sitting cross legged on a stool

Syracuse University College of Law has announced that College of Law alumnus and Fixt Founder and corporate executive Luke Cooper L’01 will serve as its Commencement Speaker on May 6, 2022. Cooper is presently CEO of Latimer Ventures, a Partner at San Francisco-based Preface Ventures, and the 2022 Visiting Scholar at the University of Maryland Baltimore, which encompasses Maryland’s Law School, Medical School, and other graduate programs.

“Luke has been a strategic planner, technology innovator, and product developer for more than 20 years,” says Dean Craig M. Boise. “We are honored to welcome him back to Syracuse University and look forward to hearing about his entrepreneurial successes and how his law degree from the College of Law and personal life experiences have shaped his leadership style and professional pursuits.”

In a 2020 Stories Book article, Cooper credits Syracuse Law with developing skills in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and advocacy that have fueled his successes. Importantly, Cooper is passionate about building diverse and inclusive work cultures and lifting up Black entrepreneurs.

Cooper, who built and sold his first cyber startup to CACI in 2011, founded the device support platform Fixt, which he sold to Assurant in 2020. He is only the second Black tech entrepreneur to see a company through to a successful exit in Baltimore, MD. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation and has been appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan to serve on the Board of Directors of Maryland’s TEDCO.

Joanna Geraghty L’97, President & Chief Operating Officer, JetBlue

headshot of joanna smiling at the camera with black glasses and blue jacket

Joanna Geraghty is President & Chief Operating Officer of JetBlue,   responsible for JetBlue’s operations and commercial performance including   airports, customer support, flight operations, inflight service, system   operations, and technical operations; safety and security; network and   airline partnerships; advertising, brand and marketing; and revenue management and sales.

Geraghty’s focus is on delivering a leading customer service experience and  enhancing  operational and commercial performance while nurturing JetBlue’s unique culture and standing as one of the best places to work.

Prior to being named President & COO she served as JetBlue’s Executive Vice President,   Customer Experience, responsible for Airport Operations, Customer Support, and Inflight Service. She served as Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer from 2010-2014, after serving as Vice President and Associate General Counsel and Director of Litigation and Regulatory Affairs. Geraghty has been with the New York-based airline since 2005.

Geraghty is a member of the board of the JetBlue Foundation and chairperson of the board of Concern Worldwide, an international not for profit. Before joining JetBlue, she was a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight. She received her B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross, her master’s in international relations from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law.

Tribute & Video Send-Off Featuring 47th VP Joseph R. Biden Jr, Dean Boise, Joanna Geraghty L’97, and College of Law Faculty, Staff, and Friends

Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani wearing a black shirt and smiling at the camera in front of a blurred-out background

Reshma Saujani is the author of three books: 2019’s Brave, Not Perfect; The New York Times bestseller Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World; and Women Who Don’t Wait in Line. Her TED talk—“Teach Girls Bravery Not Perfection”—has had more than four million views and sparked a worldwide conversation about how girls are raised, taught, and given the confidence to succeed.

Beginning her career as an attorney and activist, Saujani surged onto the political scene in 2010 as the first Indian American woman to run for US Congress. A former Deputy Public Advocate for New York City, Saujani also ran a campaign for Public Advocate in 2013 on a platform of creating opportunity for all.

Preet Bharara

Preet Bharara smiling at camera in a black suit and white button down shirt in front of an american flag

Preet Bharara, Distinguished Scholar, NYU Law School, and former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, delivered the commencement address. At the conclusion of his address, he stressed that “Never has the law been more important. Never have lawyers been more important. Never have leaders been more important.”

The Hon. James E. Graves Jr., G’80, L’80

juge graves smiling at the camera in a black judge robe and a blue tie, in front of a gray abstract background

Judge James E. Graves Jr. was nominated by President Barack Obama on June10, 2010, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. His nomination was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 14, 2011. Upon nominating Judge Graves, President Obama said, “Throughout his career James E. Graves has shown unwavering integrity and an outstanding commitment to public service.”

Judge Graves was born in Clinton, Mississippi. He earned his B.A. in sociology at Millsaps College. He worked in Mississippi’s Department of Public Welfare for two years before beginning law school. He then earned his law degree, as well as a master’s degree in public administration at Syracuse University.

Upon graduation from law school, Judge Graves worked as a staff attorney with Central Mississippi Legal Services. He engaged in private practice in Jackson for three years before joining the Office of the Mississippi Attorney General as a Special Assistant Attorney General in the Health Law Division, and later served as head of the Human Services Division. He then joined the Mississippi Department of Human Services where he served as Director of the Division of Child Support Enforcement.

In 1991, Judge Graves was appointed as a circuit judge in Hinds County, where he served for ten years. In 2001, he was appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. He was elected to continue on the court in 2004. He served as a presiding justice from 2009 until 2011, when he joined the Fifth Circuit.

Judge Graves has served as an adjunct professor at Jackson State University, Millsaps College, and Tougaloo College. He taught courses in civil rights and media law as well as the sociology of law. He has also been a Teaching Team Member of the Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop.

As the first African American from Mississippi to serve on the Fifth Circuit, Judge Graves was awarded the Mississippi Trailblazer of the Decade award—an award that recognizes Mississippians who have shown a commitment to racial, cultural, and gender diversity and who have presented Mississippi in a positive light.

Judge Graves was awarded the 2011 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award in recognition of his deep commitment to working with Mississippi youth. Other organizations have acknowledged Judge Graves’ work with youth as well. In 2009, he was awarded the Maxwell Public Administration Award by Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, which recognizes alumni for exceptional work in public service. Millsaps College awarded him the Livesay Award in 2004 for his service to Millsaps College and the larger community. He was awarded the Humanized Education Award in 2002 by the Mississippi Association of Educators. He was Jackson Public School District’s 2001 Parent of the Year and the First Alternate for Mississippi’s Parent of the Year Award for 2001. In 1991, he was named Champion Adopter by the Lake Elementary School’s Boys for a Brighter Tomorrow Program in honor of his mentoring.

Judge Graves has three sons, all of whom are attorneys. He and his wife, Dr. Bettye Ramsey Graves, are active members of New Heights Seventh Day Adventist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. L’68

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the first of four siblings. In 1953, the Biden family moved from Pennsylvania to Claymont, Delaware. He graduated from the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School and served on the New Castle County Council. Then, at age 29, he became one of the youngest people ever elected to the United States Senate.

Just weeks after the election, tragedy struck the Biden family when Biden’s wife, Neilia and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, were killed and their two young sons critically injured in an auto accident. Vice President Biden was sworn in to the U.S. Senate at his sons’ hospital bedside and began commuting to Washington every day by train, a practice he maintained throughout his career in the Senate.

In 1977, Vice President Biden married Jill Jacobs. Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in Education, is a life-long educator and currently teaches at a community college in Northern Virginia. The Vice President’s son, Beau (1969-2015), was Delaware’s Attorney General from 2007-2015 and a Major in the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq in 2008-2009. The Vice President’s other son, Hunter, is an attorney who manages a private equity firm in Washington, D.C. and is Chairman of the World Food Program USA. And his daughter Ashley is a social worker and is Executive Director of the Delaware Center for Justice. Vice President Biden has five grandchildren: Naomi, Finnegan, Roberta Mabel (“Maisy”), Natalie, and Robert Hunter.

As a Senator from Delaware for 36 years, Vice President Biden established himself as a leader in facing some of our nation’s most important domestic and international challenges. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, then-Senator Biden was widely recognized for his work on criminal justice issues, including the landmark 1994 Crime Law and the Violence Against Women Act. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years, then-Senator Biden played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. He has been at the forefront of issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.

Now, as the 47th Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden has continued his leadership on important issues facing the nation. The Vice President was tasked with implementing and overseeing the $840 billion stimulus package in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has helped to rebuild our economy and lay the foundation for a sustainable economic future. The Vice President also leads the Ready to Work Initiative, the Administration’s key effort to identify opportunities to improve our nation’s workforce skills and training systems to help better prepare American workers for the jobs of a 21st century economy.

The Vice President has continued to draw upon his years in the United States Senate to work with Congress on key issues including the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. As a longtime advocate against sexual assault and domestic violence, the Vice President appointed the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. The Vice President has also been tasked with convening sessions of the President’s Cabinet and leading interagency efforts, particularly to reduce gun violence and raise the living standards of middle class Americans in his role as Chair of the Middle Class Task Force. Vice President Biden has traveled to 48 states as part of the Administration’s continuing efforts to focus key priorities such as college affordability and American manufacturing growth.

With decades of foreign policy experience in the United States Senate, include serving as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vice President Biden advises President Obama on international issues. The Vice President has been a leading architect of the U.S. strategic vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. During his time in the Senate, the Vice President led the effort to enlarge NATO to include the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern and Central Europe after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. The Vice President’s speech at the Munich Security Conference in February 2015 laid out a vision for how to revitalize NATO, strengthen democratic institutions in Europe, prioritize investments to bolster energy security, and grow trade and investment ties across the Atlantic. The Vice President has been leading the administration’s effort to support a sovereign, democratic Ukraine, visiting the country three times in 2014. In the Middle East, the Vice President has been deeply involved in shaping U.S. policy toward Iraq, visiting the country several times. He has met with the leaders from around the Middle East and has championed Israel’s security. The Vice President has also played an active role in supporting the Administration’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. He has developed deep relationships with the region’s leaders, demonstrating U.S. commitment to high-level, face-to-face diplomacy. Vice President Biden is the Administration’s point person for diplomacy within the Western Hemisphere. He has worked to realize his vision of a Hemisphere that is “middle class, secure, and democratic, from Canada to Chile and everywhere in between.” In this capacity, the Vice President has led the Administration’s regional efforts to address economic, social, governance, and citizen security challenges.

Vice President Biden has represented our country in every region of the world, traveling to more than two dozen countries including: Afghanistan, Belgium, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt,  Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and Ukraine.

William Brodsky L’68

As chairman and CEO of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, 1997- 2013, Mr. Brodsky led the world’s largest options exchange and creator of listed options. He oversaw a period of tremendous growth and product innovation, as well as the successful transformation of CBOE’s traditional market model into a world-class hybrid trading system. Brodsky continues to be the options industry’s leading advocate in shaping market policy and regulation.

Brodsky guided CBOE through its demutualization, where the exchange converted its business model from a membership organization to a for-profit public corporation. The long-awaited IPO of CBOE Holdings, Inc. was announced in June 2010. Brodsky announced his retirement in May, 2013, when he became executive chairman (Term to expire after CBOE’s annual meeting, May 22, 2014).

Between 1985 and 1997, Bill was the president and CEO of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Previously he had been an executive VP of the American Stock Exchange.

Brodsky began his career as an attorney in the securities industry with the investment banking/ brokerage firm Model, Roland & Co. in 1968, where his father was a managing director.

In 1974 he joined the American Stock Exchange. Brodsky became head of options trading in 1976, helping to design AMEX’s first options contracts. He served as EVP-Operations, 1979-82.

Brodsky joined the Chicago Merc (CME) in 1982 as EVP and COO. Named president and CEO by 1985 he was recognized as one of the first top executives of a futures exchange to come from the securities business. He oversaw the launch of the CME Globex trading system and played a pivotal role in the development and globalization of stock index futures.

Eric T. Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General


Since being elected in 2010, Schneiderman has fought to hold financial institutions accountable for misconduct and return credibility to financial markets. As co-chair of President Obama’s state and federal task force investigating misconduct in the mortgage market, he secured a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase–the largest settlement with a single entity in American history–which resolved charges of systemic fraud in the issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities.

Schneiderman also launched an investigation into “Insider Trading 2.0,” or arrangements that give elite, high-frequency traders early access to market-moving information. He has since reached groundbreaking agreements with Thomson Reuters and BlackRock to discontinue practices that provide unfair advantages to certain investors, and continues to monitor this industry.

The attorney general has also worked to implement innovative criminal justice policies. With the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, he formed the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S) Initiative, a global coalition urging smartphone manufacturers and carriers to implement technologies to deter the rising epidemic of violent thefts. In addition, Schneiderman collaborated with gun show operators across the state to develop model procedures to ensure that no one can buy a firearm at a gun show in New York without passing a background check. These procedures have since been adopted by virtually all gun show operators in the state.

Before his first run for elected office in 1998, Schneiderman spent years as a public interest lawyer, representing taxpayers in historic lawsuits against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), tenants trying to evict drug dealers from their buildings and women seeking access to health clinics.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in 1977 and a juris doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1982.

The Honorable Judith S. Kaye

headshot of Judith Kaye smiling at the camera in a brown suit

Judith S. Kaye joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as Of Counsel in February 2009, focusing largely on arbitration and litigation. Before joining the firm, for more than 25 years she served in the New York State Judiciary, appointed in 1983 by Governor Mario Cuomo as an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals (New York State’s high court) and then in 1993 appointed by Governor Cuomo as Chief Judge of the State of New York. She was the first woman appointed to the Court, and served as Chief Judge for 15 years.

Before appointment to the bench, Judge Kaye was associated with Sullivan & Cromwell, IBM, and Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O’Donnell & Weyher, where she became that firm’s first female partner. Her practice was essentially in the area of commercial litigation, supplemented by bar association and pro bono activities.

Judge Kaye gained a national reputation for both her groundbreaking decisions and her innovative reforms of the New York State court system. She wrote notable decisions on a wide array of constitutional, statutory and common law issues. As Chief Judge she also left her mark on New York’s courts as a creative reformer, improving the jury system, establishing a Commercial Division of the State Supreme Court, bringing alternative dispute resolution into the court system in aid of litigation, streamlining procedures for permanency for children, and opening “problem-solving courts” to deal constructively with repeat offenders, offering services for drug treatment, mental health counseling and job training. She is the author of more than 200 publications, including articles on legal process, state constitutional law, women in law and professional ethics.

Her current Board service includes the American Arbitration Association, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Volunteers of Legal Services and the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children. She is a former President of the Conference of Chief Justices and Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts.

She also has received numerous awards recognizing her judicial and scholarly accomplishments, such as the New York State Bar Association’s Gold Medal, the ABA Justice Center’s John Marshall Award, the National Center for State Courts’ William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Adoption Excellence Award.

She earned a L.L.B. degree, cum laude, from  New York University and a B.A. degree from Barnard College.

Judge Kaye will receive an Honorary Degree from Syracuse University at the 2013 Commencement Exercises.