Class of 2023 called to "leave tracks" at Convocation Awards Ceremony

June 30, 2023

Graduates from the class of 2023 pose in front of a Western Law Banner

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once compelled law graduates to “leave tracks” and “repair the tears in their communities.”

Keynote speaker at the 2023 Western Law Convocation Awards Ceremony, Yola S. Ventresca, LLB’05, Managing Partner at Lerners LLP, urged our newest JDs to heed this call as they head into their next chapter.

Yola S. Ventresca

Yola S. Ventresca

“As you take your leave of Western Law, my wish for you is that you’ll use the education you’ve received here as a tool to repair the tears in your community, and to move us one step closer to a truly just and inclusive world,” said Ventresca.

Ventresca’s inspiring and uplifting speech to the class of 2023 shared reflections on how her family’s history shaped her desire to practice law, lessons learned at Western Law, and how her educational experience catalyzed the trajectory of her career.

The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Ventresca shared how her parents came in Canada in search of security in the midst of political, social and economic crisis, and ultimately civil war, in 1970’s Lebanon. Her parents’ experience highlighted the deadly consequences of collapsing laws and ethical norms.

“Growing up in an immigrant household, and hearing about my family’s experiences with political conflict, social violence and structural inequities really shaped and sharpened my appreciation of the law as an essential tool for mediating relations between people and groups,” she said reflecting on her impetus for choosing to practice law.

Ventresca also reflected on the generosity of the Western Law community, including opportunities for financial aid and the incredible support of professors Rande Kostal and Robert Soloman whose attentive mentorship enabled her to become an exceptional writer.

Valedictorian Rheanna Geisel also addressed her classmates sharing three key takeaways summarizing her experience at Western Law.

Rheanna Geisel

Rheanna Geisel

She began with the lesson that success takes a village, reflecting on the importance of both family support and the bonds developed between classmates during the unprecedented challenges brought about by the pandemic. 

“The class of 2023 has had three very different years of law school…although we spent most of the first year six feet apart, we knew that we were never alone. We have grown together, supported one another, and as cliché as it is, we are leaving here with more than just a law degree,” Geisel said.

Geisel reflected on the immense potential of the class of 2023 providing an overview of their already lengthy list of accomplishments and their underlying commitment to justice.

“It is not only the academic achievements of this class that are worth celebrating,” she said. “Our class has shown a passion for justice, commitment to upholding the rule of law, and the believe that a fair and equitable society is within our reach.”

She concluded her remarks with a third lesson that her law school experience has imparted.

“Nearly every legal question we encounter in our careers can be answered with two simple words: it depends,” Geisel said.

A common thread acknowledged by all speakers was the critical importance of a support network to the current and future success of our graduates. Professor Christopher Nicholls, in his then capacity as acting dean, closed the event with a touching family story, encouraging the class of 2023, and their families, to never miss an opportunity to share sentiments of pride, love and appreciation with their loved ones.

Yola S. Ventresca, Keynote Address

Rheanna Geisel, Valedictory Address

A list of award recipients from the class of 2023 can be found below.

Gold Medalist

A.T. Little Scholarship

Isaac Papsin

JD Program Awards

B. Siskind Scholarship

Isaac Papsin

Ailbe C. Flynn LLB `97 Memorial Scholarship in Intellectual Property

Daniel Derkach

Baker & McKenzie Award In International Business Transactions

Herschel Chaiet

Bernard and Bessie Wolf Scholarship

Husnain Malik

Canvasback Publishing Prize in Administrative Law

Bret Gillespie

C.C.H. Canadian Limited Prize

Rheanna Geisel

CCPartners Award in Labour Law

Aseera Jivraj

Colin D. Leitch Award

Olivia Moore

David L. Johnston Prize in Securities Regulation

Alexander Hamilton

Dr. Allison H. Johnson Award

Mark O’Brien

Edward C. Elwood Q.C. Prizes in Wills and Trusts

Dylan Horenfeldt

Eric K. Gillespie Professional Corporation Writing Scholarship

Lauren Viegas

Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP Award in

Labour and Employment Law

Shawn Medeiros

Francis Marie Clark Award in Law

Hillary Doyle

Granger Award in Family Law

Rheanna Geisel

Gretta J. Grant Prize in Community Legal Service

Nikki Sandhu

Harte Law Award
Megan Brohman

Insolvency Institute of Canada Prize in Insolvency Studies

Meaghan Sweeney

J.G. McLeod-McSorley Scholarship in Family Law

Nicole Dietz


J.S.D. Tory Writing Prize

Isaac Wright

Samantha Steeves

Husnain Malik

Justyna Zukowski

Law Society of Upper Canada Prize

Isaac Papsin
Herschel Chaiet
Samantha Steeves
Nicole Dietz
Michael Gora
Rheanna GeiselRoula Khairalla
Alexander Hamilton
Bret Gillespie
Justyna Zukowski
Christine Phillips
Isaac Wright
Mark Penner
Josh Kravitz
Michael Dirisio

Lorenzo Di Cecco Memorial Award in Criminal Law

Paige Moir

Margaret E. Rintoul Award in Wills

Talya Bertler

Morris Kroll Memorial Award

Delaney Gilmore

Peter Barton Award in Civil Procedure

Piper McGavin

Robert M. Solomon Award

Claire Balas

Rosen Sunshine LLP Award in Health Law

Nicole Dietz

Stanley C.Tessis Memorial Award

Nicole Dietz

Thorsteinssons LLP Award in International Tax

Alexander Hamilton

Torys LLP Award in Business Law

Christine Phillips

Whitten & Lublin Employment Lawyers Award

Isaac Papsin

Previously Awarded (2022-23)

David C. Scott Memorial Award

Nicole Dietz

Dean Ivan C. Rand Award

Isaac Papsin
Isaac Wright
Samantha Steeves

Douglas May Memorial Award

Jaidyn McEwen

Dr. Ian Randall Kerr Memorial Award in Law

Hannah Downard

Torkin Manes LLP Award

Daniel Alievsky