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Lamar to confer 1,354 degrees, including honorary doctorate

World-renowned Houston trial lawyer David Beck, a Lamar University distinguished alumnus, will receive the honorary doctor of humane letters May 19, when he also will be the keynote speaker at Lamar’s spring commencement in the Montagne Center.david beck photo

Lamar is scheduled to confer 1,354 degrees in ceremonies that will begin at 9:30 a.m. for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business and Engineering and at 1:30 p.m. for the Colleges of Education and Human Development and Fine Arts and Communication and the Center for General Studies. Graduates hail from 16 countries, 22 states outside Texas and 276 cities and towns in Texas.

Lamar plans to award the 1,354 degrees to 1,340 graduation candidates  – 27 for doctorates, in addition to Beck’s honorary degree; 599 for master’s degrees; 704 for bachelor’s degrees, 14 of  whom will earn two degrees each; and 24 for associate degrees. The master’s candidates include 429 who will earn degrees in education as part of Lamar’s online education programs. Doctorates include a record nine in audiology, 12 in educational leadership; four doctor of philosophy degrees in chemical engineering; one doctor of engineering; and one doctor of education in deaf studies and deaf education.

The honorary doctorate will recognize Beck’s many contributions to the university, including the prestigious David J. Beck Fellowship, which was made possible by his generous gift to the university’s Investing in the Future Campaign. Beck had previously established the David J. Beck Scholarship in Political Science at Lamar and has been a longtime supporter of the Lamar Governor’s Honors Program.

He grew up in Port Arthur and is a 1961 pre-law graduate of  Lamar, where he served as student body president and was an honor student. Beck has continued to serve his alma mater as a Lamar University System regent, past president and trustee of the Lamar University Foundation and, currently, as a member of  the Investing in the Future Campaign cabinet.

The National Law Journal named Beck one of the Top 10 trial lawyers in the United States and one of the top trial lawyers in the Southwest. Since 2003, a statewide survey by Texas Monthly Magazine has recognized him as one of Texas’ “Top 10 Super Lawyers.” He has been named one of “The Best Lawyers in America” by Woodward & White since the inception of the publication in 1990. The 25th-anniversary issue of Texas Lawyer Magazine named him one of the 25 greatest lawyers of the past quarter century.

Among many contributions to his profession, Beck serves on the prestigious Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedures, whose members are appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and include some of the leading judges, academicians and practitioners in the U.S.  He recently served as president of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a professional association dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession. Membership is limited to the top 1 percent of the practicing bar. He served as president of the State Bar of Texas in 1995-96.

The Anti-Defamation League honored Beck with its 2005 Jurisprudence Award, presented to legal professionals who demonstrate a devotion to the principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, a commitment to democratic values of the United States and a dedication to fair and equal justice for all.

Most recently, he received the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award at the 5th Circuit Judicial Conference in May 2011. The award is given each year, on a federal-circuit basis, to a lawyer or judge whose life and practice display sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with ongoing dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession and the rule of law. Beck has published numerous law journal articles and has appeared as a lecturer on many bar association and law school continuing legal education programs. He has won various awards for his legal writing.

In addition to his recognition as a Lamar University Distinguished Alumnus, Beck has also been named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Texas Law School and a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin.

Among other highlights of commencement, President James Simmons will present Plummer Awards, recognizing the top academic graduates. Students graduating summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude with bachelor’s and associate degrees will be recognized as they accept their diplomas. Steve Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will certify degree candidates.

Leading the academic processionals and recessionals will be Jeremy Shelton, associate professor of psychology and president of the Faculty Senate, in the morning, and Quoc-Nam Tran, professor of computer science and vice president of the Faculty Senate, in the afternoon. Paul Hemenway, professor of communication, and Victoria Price, professor of modern languages, will present the graduates in both ceremonies.

The Lamar University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Ryan Smith, director of athletic bands, will perform the processionals, recessionals and musical preludes. Two faculty members will lead in singing  “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Lamar Alma Mater: Noel Turner, instructor of voice, in the morning and Angela Pickering, instructor of music,  in the afternoon.