Spotlight on Commencement: A Hero’s Address

Bronze Star Medal recipient and former Green Beret James J. (J.J.) Williamson VLS ’12 chosen as student speaker by graduating class for May 18 Villanova University School of Law Commencement ceremony

James (JJ) Williamson

James J. (J.J.) Williamson VLS ’12, a Bronze Medal recipient and former Green Beret, was chosen by his classmates as the student speaker for the Villanova University School of Law’s 2012 Commencement ceremony on May 18. An exceptional student graduating at the top of class, Williamson served as the Editor-in-Chief of Volume 57 of the Villanova Law Review.

Williamson has been closely tied to Villanova University since childhood, growing up as a member of the St. Thomas of Villanova parish. He served for several years as an altar boy, often at the side of current Villanova University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 A&S. Williamson attended Archbishop John Carroll High School before gaining admittance to the prestigious United States Military Academy in West Point, NY.

Williamson was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon graduation from West Point in 2001, serving in Baghdad and Fallujah, Iraq (2004-2005) as a platoon leader, battery executive officer and assistant battalion operations officer for 3-82 Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division.  He was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course after returning to the United States at the completion of his deployment, and in 2006 was awarded the Green Beret.  As a Captain, Williamson served as a Special Forces Detachment Commander in Afghanistan (2007-2008) for Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA) 3214, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).  Following his deployment, he served as a company executive officer and a battalion assistant operations officer for 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). Williamson left the Army in 2009 at the rank of Captain, after eight years of distinguished service.              

A highly decorated veteran, Williamson’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Bronze Star for Service (2 OLC), the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals, the NATO Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon. 

Following graduation from Villanova University School of Law, Williamson will serve as a judicial clerk to Judge William Yohn, Jr., of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and afterwards will join the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. The Villanova University School of Law provides broad-based legal education and its award-winning clinics and Lawyering Together Program provide free legal aid to those in need. The School is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the American Association of Law Schools. Notable alumni include:  Hon. Edward Rendell (Former Governor, Pa.), Hon. Marjorie Rendell (Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit), Richard Trumka (President, AFL-CIO), Joseph T. Sebastianelli (President and CEO, Thomas Jefferson Health Systems), Jeffrey S. Moorad (Vice Chairman, San Diego Padres) and Michael Holston (Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Hewlett-Packard Company).