Nicholas Haysom—International Lawyer, Diplomat, and Former Chief Legal Advisor to President Nelson Mandela—Will Keynote at NYLS’s 2019 Commencement

Ceremony’s Theme Is “Lawyers and Global Citizens Promoting the Rule of Law”

NYLS Will Also Recognize Distinguished Alumni Virginia Sher Ramadan ’84
and Edward Chukwuemeke Okeke ’97 for Their Extraordinary Contributions to Preserving the Rule of Law Globally

New York, NY (April 23, 2019) – New York Law School (NYLS) announced that Nicholas Haysom—a Special Advisor on Sudan to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General and the former Chief Legal and Constitutional Advisor in the office of South African President Nelson Mandela—will deliver the keynote address at NYLS’s 127th Commencement ceremony.

The ceremony will be held at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center on Monday, May 20, 2019. Mr. Haysom will speak to an audience of approximately 2,200 people, including 261 J.D. and LL.M. candidates for graduation.

“Nicholas Haysom has served as the go-to United Nations envoy for the world’s most heated conflicts, following his historic career as a champion of freedom for all South Africans,” said NYLS Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell. “He has powerfully demonstrated how lawyers can forge lasting peace, even in the most intractable conflicts, by promoting the rule of law and strengthening the institutions that support a free and fair society. His guidance will be invaluable to our students as they launch their careers on the rapidly changing global landscape.”

The theme of Commencement 2019 is “Lawyers and Global Citizens Promoting the Rule of Law.” At the ceremony, NYLS will present its President’s Medal—awarded to the School’s most accomplished community members and most generous benefactors—to Virginia Sher Ramadan ’84, a diplomat, law professor, and immigration policy advisor who has led major rule of law initiatives by the U.S. State Department. NYLS will award its Kathleen Grimm Medal for Distinguished Public Service to Edward Chukwuemeke Okeke ’97, a legal practitioner at the World Bank, who has held similar roles at UNESCO and the United Nations.

NYLS’s theme recognizes the role of lawyers in promoting the rule of law to advance human rights, social justice, peace, and economic security, both in New York and on the global stage. The theme also honors Professor Stephen J. Ellmann, a world-renowned scholar of South African constitutionalism and a longtime, beloved member of the NYLS faculty who passed away in March 2019. Professor Ellmann received the President’s Medal at NYLS’s 2018 Commencement.

In recent years, NYLS commencement speakers have included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, the Emmy Award-winning co-creator of “Making a Murderer” Laura Ricciardi ’96, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), and Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Robert A. Katzmann.

About Nicholas Haysom

Nicholas HaysomThroughout his distinguished legal and diplomatic career, Nicholas Haysom has focused on reconciliation and peace processes, constitutional and electoral reforms, and democratic governance.

He is currently a Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the political crisis in Sudan. Until January 2019, he served as the UN Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Somalia and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia. From 2016 to 2018, he was the UN Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.

He previously held high-ranking UN roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also served as Director for Political, Peacekeeping, and Humanitarian Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.

From 2002 to 2005, Mr. Haysom was the principal advisor to the mediator in the Sudanese Peace Process. He was involved in the Burundi Peace Talks as Chair of the committee negotiating constitutional issues from 1999 to 2002, under the facilitation of the late former President Nelson Mandela. From 1994 to 1999, he served as Chief Legal and Constitutional Advisor in the office of President Mandela.

Throughout the 1980s, he worked as a human rights lawyer and activist. As a leader of the South African Student Union in the 1970s, he was placed under house arrest by the apartheid government.

Mr. Haysom earned his law degree from the Universities of Natal and Cape Town in South Africa. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Cape Town in 2012.

About Virginia Sher Ramadan ’84

Virginia Sher Ramadan, Class of 1984Virginia Sher Ramadan ’84 is a diplomat, law professor, and immigration policy advisor who, in her distinguished career with the U.S. Department of State, has spearheaded significant rule of law programs around the world.

Ms. Ramadan served in the State Department for 22 years, both overseas and in Washington, D.C., before retiring in 2017. Her career as a Foreign Service Officer was split between leading large consular and visa operations and creating, implementing, and overseeing multi-million-dollar rule of law, security assistance, cultural, and educational programs throughout the Middle East and Latin America. She most recently served as Consul General and Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs for the U.S. Mission to Saudi Arabia.

Her teaching career includes 14 years at NYLS, where from 1986 to 1999, she taught Property Law and Wills, Trusts, and Future Interests, as well as electives in Immigration Law and International Business Transactions.

Ms. Ramadan began her career as a Foreign Service Officer in Brazil and Tunisia. She earned her J.D. from NYLS summa cum laude and her LL.M. in International Law from Columbia Law School. She holds a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

About Edward Chukwuemeke Okeke ’97

Edward Okeke, Class of 1997For more than two decades, Edward Chukwuemeke Okeke ’97 has promoted and defended the legal position of major international organizations committed to preserving the rule of law, peace, security, and economic development around the world.

He is currently Senior Counsel at the World Bank, in Washington, D.C., where he has worked since 2005. In the role, he provides legal advice on corporate, administrative, and institutional affairs; defends the organization before the World Bank Administrative Tribunal in its internal justice system; and manages external litigation against the organization. He held previous roles as a Legal Officer at UNESCO and the United Nations.

Mr. Okeke is an acclaimed expert on the privileges and immunities of international organizations. In May 2018, he published Jurisdictional Immunities of States and International Organizations (Oxford University Press). The book includes a foreword by the President of the International Court of Justice.

He is the recipient of the Otto L. Walter Distinguished Writing Award from NYLS and the Albert S. Pergam International Law Writing Competition Award from the New York State Bar Association.

He earned his J.D. from NYLS cum laude and his B.S. in Social Sciences from the University of Lagos in Nigeria.