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Highest Ranking Student Delivers Remarks at Spring Commencement

May 3, 2011

Andrew Wade Guthrie was a summa cum laude graduate and the highest ranking member of the spring 2011 class. Originally from San Antonio, Guthrie earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree, with an emphasis in broadcast, from the University of Missouri. While there, he worked as a sports reporter, producer and anchor at KOMU, the local NBC affiliate. Next year, he will clerk for Justice Don Willett on the Supreme Court of Texas. After that, he has accepted an offer to work as an associate in the business litigation section of Haynes and Boone in Dallas. Below is a transcript of the remarks Guthrie delivered at commencement.

Good morning, and thank you all for being here today. I guess this is the part where I am supposed to say, "it feels like just yesterday that we started law school." Well, I'm not going to do that because it would be a lie...and I think professors Powell and Wren are primarily to blame--I mean, thank--for that. In reality, it feels like a long time ago that we met up at George's on that night before orientation to start getting to know one another. It feels like a long time ago that we walked into Bates' contract class for the first time and thought, "maybe this law school thing won't be so bad..." and it feels like a long time ago that we walked into Counseller's Civ Pro class and thought, "yes it will."

But what I remember most about those first weeks in law school is the uncertainty of it all. Even then--before the worst of the economic downturn--we knew that there was a lot of pressure to do well in law school in order to secure a job after graduation. The problem was that our class was chock full of really smart and talented people who we were competing with for grades. For our whole lives, we had each been at or near the top of our classes--if not in actual performance, then certainly in aptitude--and now we were competing for a finite number of A's against, well...people like us. Even math-averse lawyers know that it is a mathematical impossibility for everyone to be in the top 10% of the class--so we knew that there were going to be some really smart and talented people in an unfamiliar situation. And the tension came from the fact that we really had no idea where we were going to stack up.

This led to some odd behavior. No, I'm not talking about ripping pages out of books in the library or sabotaging someone else's class notes--after all, we were a competitive, but ultimately civil class. No, what I'm talking about is...something entirely different. I'm thinking of one particular incident involving myself and three of the guys in my study group that first quarter. I didn't get their permission to share this story with you ahead of time, so I won't tell you their names to protect their identity--but their initials are Christian Brown, Chris Littell and Bryan Bufkin. Anyway, at one point while studying for those first finals, we got bored and started discussing who we thought would be at the top of our class. And because we are boys, anything and everything can quickly be turned into a competition, so we decided to make it interesting: we held, what I can only assume is the first ever Law School Fantasy Draft. Yes, unfortunately, it was exactly what it sounds like. We had a 4 round draft in which we each selected a "team" of people who we thought were most likely to get the best grades in law school. I honestly don't remember who we each picked, and we never tallied up the scores to see who won--but since you're probably wondering, I am both proud and ashamed to say that I drafted myself with a value pick in the third round.

But the reason we could do something like that--other than the fact that we were bored, competitive, and borderline delusion because of finals fatigue--was because our class was full of really smart and really talented people. So we genuinely did not know at that point who would excel in the classroom because it could have been just about anyone...we didn't know who would excel in the courtroom...we didn't know who would excel in the workplace, or public service, or in any of the other areas that people decided to devote their time to in law school.

But over the course of three years in the bunker together at BLS, that picture became clear and we learned about who would excel in each of those areas. But one thing hasn't changed--we are still a bunch of really smart and talented people. Only now, we are smart and talented Baylor lawyers. And that means we have the distinct privilege--and responsibility--of carrying the Baylor name into the profession, in hopes of changing it for the better. I look forward to hearing about each of your successes in the years ahead, and I'm proud to call you colleagues. Thanks and God Bless.

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