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Hooding 2021 reunites Moritz community, gives graduates moment in the sun

May 27, 2021 | College

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By: James Grega, Jr.

For the first time in more than a year, the Moritz College of Law came together as a community to celebrate the accomplishments of its outgoing class. After months of virtual learning and historical moments across the country, the Class of 2021 quite literally got their day in the sun.

In order to accommodate for proper social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hooding 2021 took play on the Oval, just north of Orton Hall, and was divided into three separate ceremonies. The ceremonies featured a graduating class that has veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the National Guard, while also including alumni from 30 states and three countries. The class also took a moment to remember classmate Benjamin ‘William’ Hudson, who lost his life to cancer in August. The class gift features a chair in Saxbe Auditorium bearing his name.

While masks were required, graduates were still able to enjoy the moment with their friends and families after a year that was unlike any other in Ohio State’s, and the country’s history.

Graduate Rachel Riestenberg spent much of her 3L year learning virtually, but also made several trips between Columbus and Philadelphia where she and her fiancée now live. She said that while the 2020-21 year was challenging, being able to celebrate Hooding in person was a gratifying moment.

“It was very special to have Hooding in person. I have been in Philadelphia for most of the semester, so I got to say goodbye to everyone one last time,” said Riestenberg who is planning to work in public interest.

All three ceremonies were highlighted by individual hoodings. Instead of the usual hooding on stage, graduates were hooded by a chosen friend or family member at their seats.

“To be able to have family there was special, I was not expecting that,” Riestenberg added. “I had my dad hood me and he loved that he got to do that.”

Evan Lewis addresses his fellow graduates during Hooding 2021.

Evan Lewis, a third-generation Moritz graduate, was the chosen speaker for all three ceremonies, in which he spoke about the upcoming challenges facing the outgoing class. Lewis described that due to the current climate of the United States, there is an incredible challenge facing those entering the legal profession today.

Lewis mentioned how major historical events ultimately mold the next 20 years of the American landscape. With the events of the last year, he said the next generation of lawyers has a responsibility to turn the tide.

“The next two decades might very well shape the rest of the century,” Lewis said. “Few generations have been granted this responsibility. It could very well be filled in with a destructive era. An era of disillusion, fracture, or devastating climate change. Or, our grandchildren could fall asleep to a history professor’s ramblings about our generation that bore witness to everything so deeply and fundamentally wrong with the system, but did everything to change it, and succeeded.

“Do not shrink from this responsibility, but welcome it.”

Lewis asked that his fellow graduates not only apply their legal knowledge and ethics to the next stage of their lives but also encouraged empathy and understanding.

“Be an advocate for others, not just in the legal sense, but in all areas of life even when it is uncomfortable,” he added. “It is critical to use our positions to strengthen the American legal system.”

“Evan was just fabulous. That was my favorite part of the entire ceremony,” Riestenberg said of Lewis’ speech.

Overseeing his first Hooding ceremony at Moritz, Dean Lincoln L. Davies encouraged graduates to eagerly prepare for the upcoming bar exams, but also remember to come back and stay in touch with the Moritz community and alumni base of which they are now valued member.

“I hope you will remember what you have learned here,” Davies said. “I hope you will remember the relationships you have made with friends, professors and with each other.”

Like Riestenberg, many graduates scattered all over the country following the ceremony to begin their postgraduate careers. However, those moments on the Oval will likely stick with the Class of 2021 for years to come.

“Everything has been very fast-paced. I think for a lot of people like me who are moving, the Hooding ceremony was this moment to take a deep breath,” she said. “For many of us, we have wanted to be lawyers since we were kids. It was a moment to enjoy before we hit the ground running in our next chapter.”