June 13, 2024
man hooding woman on commencement stage
Newark Municipal Court Chief Judge Dion J. Williams RC’88 RLAW’92 hooding his daughter, Tianna Williams ’24, at Commencement.

In a moment nearly two decades in the making, Newark Municipal Court Chief Judge Dion J. Williams RC’88 RLAW’92 hooded his daughter, Tianna Williams ‘24, at Rutgers Law School’s Newark commencement ceremony on May 24.

Not only was this a deeply proud moment for Hon. Williams, but it represented the culmination of Tianna’s lifelong aspirations.

“Tianna was about five years old, and I was working as chief municipal public defender when I brought her to the courthouse in Newark,” Hon. Williams recalls. “She had the opportunity to meet some women judges working in the building, and soon decided she wanted to be a judge when she grew up.”

little girl in black judge's robe
Tianna dressed up as a judge for career day in kindergarten. She wore her dad's robe and brought his gavel.

Unlike many children, whose aspirations shift with the passing years, Tianna remained unwavering in her convictions. After earning a bachelor’s degree at Temple University, she began applying to law schools.

“I considered other options but, upon receiving acceptance to Rutgers Law, I knew instantly it was where I wanted to be,” she says. “Knowing my dad went there added to my excitement because I wanted to make him proud.”

Her decision turned out to be the right one. Tianna graduates with valuable experience gained from working in the Housing Justice and Tenants’ Solidarity Clinic, serving as a judicial intern in the federal court for the Hon. Julien X. Neals, editing the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, interning in the civil rights division of the New Jersey attorney general’s office, and working as a summer associate for Connell Foley.

A Newark native, Hon. Williams admits he was “ecstatic” when Tianna decided on Rutgers and was immensely proud to hood his daughter at her law school commencement just miles from where he grew up.

“I’m a first-generation college and law school graduate,” he says. “Being able to establish a legacy and then see one of my children follow in that legacy has been a blessing, and Tianna’s journey to becoming a lawyer is a testament to her determination and hard work. I know she has a long way to go before becoming a judge, but she’s one step closer to making that happen. As a parent, I’m just excited to witness her realizing her dream.”

woman in graduation gown and hood
Tianna Williams ’24

For Tianna, who’s currently focused on studying for the bar exam, the hooding was a memorable capstone on her time at Rutgers.

“Every time I think about my father hooding me, I want to cry,” she says. “He’s my best friend and being able to go through this journey with him and have him be a part of my commencement is so meaningful I can hardly put it into words.”

Rutgers Law Media Contact:
Shanida Carter

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