As the dignified strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" floated over the Dickinson School of Law yesterday, you could almost hear the roar of the Nittany Lion.
For, even as 193 black-gowned men and women prepared to graduate in the heart of Carlisle, Penn State was on their minds. The long-independent law school has agreed to merge with Penn State effective July 1, and future diplomas will read "The Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University."
It was cause for reflection among yesterday's graduates.
"I am very strongly opposed to the merger, but I am very proud," said 35-year-old Ira Wagler. "The school's been independent for so long . . . We have lost a tradition that was almost invaluable."
Others felt differently. John Van Allen, 26, said that long before he entered the law school, he thought "they would be a perfect fit.
"Penn State needed a law school. It was the only thing it was missing," he said.
The commencement ceremony was attended by hundreds of people. Their chairs covered the lawn next to Drayer Hall.
It was warm and overcast as Jerome J. Shestack, president-elect of the American Bar Association, gave the commencement address.
He cautioned them to be wary as "you move from the calm of your academic pond.
"It is a troublesome business, this adversary system . . . I have no answers to the moral dilemmas of our profession. It will be painful to wrestle with them," Shestack said.
He urged graduates to do pro bono work early in their careers, and often.
"If affluence and power are all you seek . . . I believe you will ultimately find little joy in your profession," he said.
Shestack did not mention the merger. In the commencement program, though, the logic of a union with Penn State was the first thing mentioned under "History and Mission."
It read, "Through this affiliation, the Law School will broaden the variety and multi-disciplinary nature of its curriculum, will enhance its technological capabilities, and will gain increased recognition throughout the nation and the world."
It noted that the school was founded by Judge John Reed in 1834. Yesterday, as they got ready to depart the collection of gray, stone buildings with massive white columns, some graduates looked into the future of the place.
A Dickinson School of Law-Penn State degree, said Clasina Mahoney, 27, will have more punch when placed before out-of-state employers.
"The big firms are going to be able to recognize it more," she said.
Kurt Springer, 31, said, "I'm a bit sad that we are losing our independence . . . (but) we will be able to draw on the opportunities they have and some of the resources."
And graduate Thomas J. Ahrens, who delivered the invocation, voiced a wish for the school as a whole.
He said, "May it remain faithful to its mission of training quality attorneys."