Law Student Overcomes Extreme Challenges to Graduate, Speaks at Commencement
Mathew Rudes embodies the idiom "mind over matter." An outstanding student who has overcome extraordinary medical challenges to excel in his classes, trial advocacy competitions and externships, Rudes' intelligence, kindness and sense of humor also encourages those around him. He was selected as the student speaker to represent the class of 2012 for Southwestern's 97th Commencement Ceremony, which took place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 13.
Rudes was born with Spontaneous Infantile Marfan syndrome, the rarest and severest form of a genetic disorder of the connective tissue. It affects the heart, skeleton, skin, spine, eyes and nearly every other part of the body. Rudes has been a medical enigma since birth, and has endured 14 major surgeries - including two heart operations - and dealt with complications that included losing the ability to walk and developing an excruciating Chronic Pain Syndrome that began before he reached adolescence. Marfan syndrome does not impinge on the mind.
"I am thrilled to have been chosen as student commencement speaker," Rudes said. "It is such an honor and privilege to represent the graduating class of 2012, as we take the first step into our future. In my speech, I want to inspire hope in what is, for most of us graduating, a chaotic and unpredictable period in our lives."
Rudes credits Professor Isabelle Gunning, who taught his Evidence course, with giving him the foundation he needed to successfully compete in the Trial Advocacy Honors Program (TAHP) competitions and serve in his externships in the Van Nuys Hardcore Gang Unit/Prelim Department. As a member of TAHP, Rudes and his teammates (pictured, right) recently took First Place at the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law Trial Advocacy Regional Competition.
"Mathew was a joy as a student not only because he was always prepared, but he was always interested and engaged in the material," Professor Gunning said. "But beyond that he is a terrific person. He is incredibly smart but not arrogant. He maintains a positive attitude and a grateful heart. His focus is on what he can do. And I love the way he honors those who support him - especially his mother. He has a willingness to embrace and work hard for his dreams regardless of the circumstances - and he does it with grace, style and humor."
His mother, Carol Rudes, has played an integral role in Mathew's academic career, driving him to school in a specifically equipped van and staying with him throughout each day in case any of his pain issues require her assistance.
"Mathew has - every single day since birth - faced incredible physical challenges," Carol Rudes explained. "Despite the overwhelming obstacles, he has managed to simultaneously recognize the reality of his physical disabilities, hone his mental abilities, and choose goals that work for him, always persevering with a laser-like focus. Mathew has utilized an inner-strength, fortitude, and wit to sustain him through the past two years in Southwestern's SCALE Program to reach his goal of graduating law school. Southwestern was a fortuitous destiny for Mathew, and the school has provided a supportive, unique, top-notch educational environment - not only for Mathew, but for every student - that will undoubtedly help Mathew achieve his dream of becoming a prosecuting attorney."
A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, Mathew Rudes has dedicated his entire life to his academic career. "Now that I am graduating, I have to pave my own path forward, which is an incredibly daunting task," he said. "Still, I always hope that things will work out in the end, and that's a message I felt other students could benefit from."
Professor Ronald Aronovsky, who taught Rudes Civil Procedure, added, "Simply put, Matt is a superb law student. He combines extraordinary intelligence and a strong work ethic with sound judgment, empathy, poise, good cheer and an inspired sense of humor. These are just some of the qualities that make Matt such a delightful person and demonstrate why he is going to be a fine lawyer."
Professor Christine Lorillard, who gave Rudes his first paid job as a legal research assistant, said, "I was so happy to see that Matt was chosen as graduation speaker. I got to know Matt even before he started in SCALE during the summer of 2010 when he sent me a long email introducing himself. I have been privileged to know him ever since. Matt is, of course, the best of students. He distinguished himself in both my classes and as my research assistant last summer. But my best times with Matt were just sitting around my office chatting. He is a fascinating person, funny, creative and interested in everything. I'll miss that when he goes off to embrace his next challenge." Click here to read Southwestern's student profile of Rudes.