A Family Weekend to Remember


For more information, please contact:
Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

Local Mother and Daughter Graduate from Different Law Schools on Back-to-Back Days

By Tony Ferullo

Elisabeth Hessler says that her father has always wanted a lawyer in the family.

Well, after all these years, his wish finally came true – in more ways than one.

On Saturday, May 17, Hessler’s mother, Patricia, graduated from Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, RI. On Sunday, May 18, Elisabeth walked across the stage and received her juris doctor degree from Suffolk University in Boston, MA.

Load the film, focus and snap away. This unique mother and daughter graduation weekend was filled with Kodak moments. Participating in back-to-back cap and gown ceremonies certainly provided both individuals – Patricia is 50 and Elisabeth is 25 – with immediate joy and memories that will last forever.

“We’ve always been very close, but this has definitely added another dimension to our relationship,” said Elisabeth. “We’ve both worked so hard to get where we are today, and now we’ll be able to enjoy it together.”

“To be sharing this experience at the same time is something special,” said Patricia. “We’ve supported each other all along and it’s so exciting to see it end this way.”

This isn’t the first time that the Hesslers have traveled along the same educational path. A short time ago, they attended the University of Rhode Island together over a two-year period, and even sat next to one another in a couple of classes.

“That was kind of weird in the beginning, but then it was fabulous,” said Elisabeth, who graduated from URI with honors in 2000. “We even studied together sometimes and traded outlines and class notes.

“My mother brought a different outlook to class because she was older. There was no competition between us. We were more mother and daughter than classmates.”

“It was a lot of fun,” said Patricia, a 1999 URI graduate. “We would go out to lunch once or twice a week after class and talk about everything.”

After graduating from the Lincoln School in Providence, Elisabeth received an academic scholarship to URI. She made the dean’s list seven out of eight semesters there, and worked as a congressional intern for Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s Office in Washington, DC during one semester in 1999. In 2000, she spent a semester working as a campaign aide for the Kate Coyne-McCoy for Congress committee in Providence.

“My parents have always stressed the importance of education to my two younger brothers and me,” said Elisabeth, a consistently good student at Suffolk Law. “They said it’s the biggest gift they could give us, and that education can open up the world for you.”

When it came time to select a law school, Suffolk was her only choice. “Suffolk Law has an excellent reputation in Rhode Island,” said Elisabeth, who coordinated the Suffolk Law Public Interest Group Auction last year, helping to raise more than $20,000 for summer fellowships for students providing legal services in the public sector. “And I loved the new building and all the technology it had to offer. I was also impressed with the administration because of how cooperative and helpful they were.”

Patricia, who received her master’s degree in public administration from The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2000, credits her daughter for giving her the confidence to attend law school.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the chance,” said Patricia. “Elisabeth is the one who encouraged me to go ahead with this. She kept telling me, ‘Mom,
you would make a great lawyer and you can do anything you want.’”

Patricia plans to eventually practice public service law. Elisabeth, on the other hand, has her sights set on trust and estate law (in September, she will enroll in the University of Miami’s LL.M. program in estate planning). “People are always asking me if we’re going to open a practice together,” said Patricia. “It would be great but our interests are so different.”

They both agree, however, that graduating law school on the same weekend is something they’ll never forget. But, there was little time to celebrate. In fact, they began bar review classes on Monday, May 19, following their graduation weekend; Elisabeth in Boston, Patricia in Providence.

Asked what Dr. Hessler thinks about all of this, Patricia laughs out loud. “My husband is getting a kick out of the whole thing,” she said. “He is proud of his girls.”

Added Elisabeth, with a chuckle, “If my dad tries to argue with us now, he knows that he is going to lose. He thought he could handle one lawyer in the family, but now he has two.”

(Tony Ferullo is Associate Director of Public Affairs at Suffolk University).

Back to News »