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Press Release

Barbara Laskin

Chief Judge Michael J. Davis to Speak
at Macalester Commencement

Sr. Class Speaker is Westenley Alcenat ’10, from Haiti

Chief Judge Michael J. Davis ‘69

Chief Judge Michael J. Davis ‘69

April 14, 2010 – St. Paul, Minn.– Chief Judge Michael J. Davis ‘69, Chief Judge of the District of Minnesota and the first African-American Federal Judge in the state, is Macalester College’s 2010 commencement speaker. Commencement will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at the college. For the first time, Macalester will be streaming commencement at Check back for updates.

Chief Judge Davis was appointed by President Clinton in 1994 and became Chief Judge of the District of Minnesota in 2008, a seven-year appointment.

“In his quiet yet deliberative way, Chief Judge Davis has made a career out of getting to the bottom of complex issues in a fair and just manner,” said Macalester President Brian Rosenberg. “Throughout his life and work, Judge Davis has embodied Macalester’s high standards and commitments to internationalism, diversity, and service to society.”  

In December 2001, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation appointed Chief Judge Davis to preside over the Baycol Multidistrict Litigation (or “MDL”). The Baycol MDL became the third largest MDL in the history of the United States, behind the asbestos and silicon breast implant litigations. In this capacity, Chief Judge Davis supervised pretrial matters for 14,500 cases, which represent the claims of tens of thousands of individual plaintiffs from all 50 states. In 1999, Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Chief Judge Davis to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a seven-year term.

For the past 26 years, he’s been an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, his alma mater. He has lectured at Oxford University, Magdalen College, the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and in Cairo, Egypt. In 2007, Chief Judge Davis traveled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on behalf of the United States State Department and the Department of Commerce to encourage Saudi Arabian judges to visit the United States.

He served as a criminal defense lawyer at the Neighborhood Justice Center in St. Paul and at the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis where he is currently a board member.  He also served as an Assistant Public Defender in Hennepin County.

Westenley Alcenat

Westenley Alcenat

Westenley Alcenat ’10, a political science and history major originally from Haiti who immigrated to the U.S. as a youngster after being orphaned in his home country, will be the senior class speaker. At Macalester, he was the recipient of the 2010 Global Citizenship Award and spearheaded a fundraising effort to aid Haiti in the aftermath of the January earthquake there.  He will be entering a Ph.D. program in history at Columbia University this fall.

Former Macalester President Robert M. Gavin, Jr. (1984 - 1996) will receive an honorary degree.

Commencement ceremonies will include an academic procession led by the Macalester Pipe Band, flag bearers representing 42 countries of the 56 graduating international seniors plus the U.S. and U.N. flags, faculty in academic robes and the 471 seniors.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,958 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.