Monday, October 27, 2014
Group shot of Class of 1989 alumni on the steps of fireplace lounge in Flavelle House

Back for their 25th anniversary since graduation, the Class of 1989 had one of the best turnouts for Reunion 2014.



By Shauna Van Praagh, LLB 1989, Associate Professor of Law, McGill University


Dear friends of the Class of 1989 at U of T Law,

At our 25th reunion dinner on October 24th, I said I’d report back to my first year law students on whether it was worth getting together with past classmates 25 years after graduating from law school.  Here’s what I’ll tell them:

Yes, it was worth it. 

Not primarily because the encounter reminded us of a time of intensive and formative learning and reflection about law, and even more about ourselves. Nor because it was fun and even remarkable to realize that individuals don’t change over a quarter of a century so much as they evolve, exaggerate, develop and refine who they are and how they present themselves. Not even because the range of preoccupations, priorities and places that mark our professional and personal lives is so great—matched only by the range of backgrounds that characterized this group of people as we first came together to embark on our legal education.  Instead, it was worth it—in my own mind and in the ways I’ll share with my students—for two striking reasons.

We all fundamentally do the same thing day after day. We serve people, influence institutions and contribute in so many ways to the world around us.

First, because the people, reunited to celebrate a significant period spent together, showed incredible intelligence and abilities and ambitions—as one might expect 25 years after graduation from a Faculty of Law known for its excellence. More importantly, however, they showed real compassion and awe-inspiring creativity: both qualities that were quietly nourished by our time together as students, and that account for the imagination and care that obviously lie behind the multitude of narratives about life partners, children, travel and career paths. We have all experienced ups and downs, joy and sorrow, pain and celebration with the people we love in our lives. And we have all, in different ways, faced difficult challenges, chosen unexpected turns in the road, accepted our limits and sometimes truly realized our potential.

Second, I thought that, as a law professor, I would feel like my past two decades have been devoted to law-related work in very different ways than most of my peers. But I found myself surrounded by teachers of law—and here I’m not referring to the small handful of people in my class who hold the title of law professor. Rather, as I said to a couple of people sitting with me at dinner, we are all mentors, role models, and ongoing students and teachers of life and law. We teach and learn from our children about rules, regulations and resistance; we mentor young people as they explore processes, principles and priorities; we teach and learn from our peers and partners about respect and deference, argument and agreement, freedom and obligation.

Above all, we are storytellers—we shape narratives, convey ideas and share inspiration. Teaching law allows me to talk to, learn from and take on responsibility for engaged and curious individuals year after year. A 25th U of T law school class reunion reminded me that, as graduates of a program devoted to governance and society, we all fundamentally do the same thing day after day. 

We serve people, influence institutions and contribute in so many ways to the world around us.

It was worth it.



Photo: Michelle Yee