The Commencement Speaker
Judge Denise Bradley graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1986. While in law school she began a career in the Harris County District Attorney’s office as a full time intern assigned to the appellate division. She argued her first case before the First Court of Appeals while she was still in law school. While at South Texas, she was also a member of the Law Review and the Board of Advocates.
Upon graduation, Judge Bradley began her career as a prosecutor and over the next 25 years worked her way up through the ranks. She worked in the Trial Bureau and served as the Chief of the 177th and 185th District Courts. She also worked as the gang prosecutor and was assigned to the Major Offenders Division where she worked closely with the cold case squads of various law enforcement agencies and also helped in the investigations of serial rapists, robbers and murderers. As an assistant district attorney, she tried over two hundred cases, including a dozen death penalty cases.
Judge Bradley was elected judge of the 262nd Criminal District Court in November of 2010. In addition to her duties as judge of the 262nd, Judge Bradley also volunteers her time to preside over one of the Harris County STAR drug courts. This court program works with non-violent offenders who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. The offenders receive in-patient drug treatment, transitional housing and job training in an effort to keep them from returning to the criminal justice system. In 2012, Governor Perry appointed Judge Bradley to the Specialty Courts Advisory Council. The council evaluates applications for grant funding for therapeutic courts across Texas.
Besides her service to our justice system, Judge Bradley is also active in the community, serving as a volunteer coordinator for Special Olympics through the Houston Bar Association. In May of 2010, she was one of several lawyers profiled as a “Local Hero” in the May 2010 issue of the Houston Lawyer Magazine for her volunteer work in the community.
Judge Bradley and her husband, Robert, have five children and three grandchildren.
The Commencement Ceremony
The commencement ceremony consists of the following segments:
- Welcome and Introduction
- Greetings from Students
- Commencement Address
- Presentation of Graduates
- Conferring of Doctor of Jurisprudence Degrees
- Faculty and Guest Hooding
- Closing Remarks
Key symbolic elements of the ceremony are the school colors, the commencement regalia, the mace, and the hooding of new graduates, each of which is described below.
The School Colors
The colors of South Texas College of Law are crimson and gold.
The Commencement Regalia
In the city of medieval times, clothing not unlike that worn by the participants in the
commencement ceremony was
common. The modern academic costume has evolved from the dress of the medieval guilds and the early
religious orders. Today, anyone with a college or university degree may wear the black academic
The hood, a sash-like garment that is placed around the neck of a graduate by a member of the
faculty or a guest during the ceremony, indicates the doctoral-level degree. Placement of the hood
by a member of the faculty or an alumni guest gives recognition of the honoree’s academic
accomplishment and welcomes the graduate to the fraternity of professionals. At South Texas College
of Law, the lining of the hood has a crimson chevron on a gold background to represent the school
colors. A South Texas College of Law faculty member who holds a degree from another college or
university wears the colors of that school. The velvet edging on a hood is the color that
represents the subject in which the degree was earned by the wearer. Purple represents law.
The doctoral costume also has velvet trim on the gown, including crossbars on the sleeve. The trim
may be black or may match the color of the hood edging. The tassel on the cap is worn on the left
side to indicate an advanced
At graduation, the symbol of authority carried by the senior faculty member leading the South Texas College of Law academic parade is the mace. The mace itself is an ornamental staff that takes its name from a medieval battle club used as a weapon. Use of the mace in academia dates back to the mid-1400s A.D. Today at South Texas, its use at commencement indicates to all that the school is determined to protect the integrity of the law, the institution itself, and education.
In South Texas’s earlier days, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston on several occasions lent the college its mace, a handsome polished wooden shaft about four feet long entwined with a bronze serpent representing health. Topped with an eagle, it featured the great seal of the medical school, discreetly covered with a gold disc when used by South Texas.
After borrowing a mace for three years, the law school began to search for a company to produce a custom-made mace. No such company was located, so South Texas decided to produce its own mace. First, a five-foot oaken shaft was obtained from an architectural antique outlet. Then a bronze eagle of proper dignity and proportion was procured and affixed to the top of the staff, mounted on a brass cap fashioned from a World War I artillery shell casing. The ornament at the base was made from a Navy 40-millimeter shell casing of World War II vintage, and the final ornamentation was the college’s bronze seal, attached to the upper part of the shaft.
Symbolically, the mace represents South Texas’s mission. The seal shows the scales of justice in balance, and contains the college’s motto: Justitia et Veritas Praevaleant (Let Justice and Truth Prevail). The shell casings are from two of the nation’s most difficult struggles to defend the rule of law and justice. The eagle is reminiscent of the symbol of the United States and also reflects the magnificence of the eagle statue that currently graces the college’s front entrance. The carrying of the mace, like the ringing of the Liberty Bell after seniors’ last exams, is a cherished South Texas tradition.
The hooding of new graduates by faculty or guest hooders is one of commencement’s cherished
moments. In this ceremony, a striking, sash-like garment of crimson, gold, and purple (the school colors, plus the color symbolizing the law) is placed around the neck of each participating graduate by his or her hooder. The garment is then arranged so that it flows down the back of the graduate, revealing the colors of the school and the law.