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By: Opinion, A. Gail Prudenti December 29, 2021
Ralph Waldo Emerson — the legendary essayist, philosopher, poet and abolitionist—urged us to “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you.” Emerson thought gratitude was good for the soul; recent research suggests it’s also good for the body.
Studies show that people who regularly take the time to reflect upon their blessings are happier, sleep better, show more compassion and even have stronger immune systems, quite a bonus at a time when a potentially deadly virus is lurking in the shadows.
In one study, two leading researchers, Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami and Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, asked three different groups of participants to jot down a few sentences each week. One group wrote what they were grateful for during the week. A second documented their daily irritations. And the third wrote about events, positive and negative, that affected them. After 10 weeks, the first group felt better about their lives, exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than those in the other groups.
Although I am by nature a grateful person, I’m going to make a conscious effort to embrace gratia, starting right now. As I look back on the past couple of years and reflect on the accomplishments at Hofstra Law during the COVID epoch, my heart swells with gratitude and pride.
Amid a global pandemic, we embraced the pioneering spirt of our founders. With little or no warning, and no precedent, we quickly upgraded all our technology for online and hybrid learning. We created the Online Summer Skills Institute to offer our students opportunities to develop legal tech and trial skills when the usual summer internships were disrupted, and launched Diversity Mentorship, Internship and Placement programs. We saw our commitment to preparing our students pay off with a 13 percent increase in the bar passage rate.
For a number of years, we had been eagerly anticipating a series of events to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2020. The pandemic forced us to adjust, and we did, delaying some celebrations until 2021. But we went ahead with our ambitious capital campaign, only the second in the school’s long history, to ensure that Hofstra Law grads are tech fluent, business savvy and trained to not only survive but thrive in the era of interdisciplinary practice.
We pitched the mission of the Vision 2020 Campaign to recruit outstanding and diverse students, expand our interdisciplinary programs through strategic partnerships with Hofstra’s graduate schools in Business, Engineering, Medicine and Nursing — and exceeded our initial goal of raising $15 million. We are now in the second, public phase of the campaign, and I am overwhelmed with the extraordinary generosity of our alumni and the legal community.
None of that happens without dedicated administrators, top-notch professors, serious students, loyal alums, generous benefactors and the behind-the-scenes staffers who keep our facilities safe and clean and ensure that our roads are cleared of snow, that our heating and cooling systems work, that our water is potable, that our campus is secure, that we have the supplies we need and that any number of other “mundane” tasks are addressed so we can carry out our mission. I am grateful to every single one of them.
Emerson reminded us that “all …have contributed to your advancement, you should include all … in your gratitude.” A Vietnamese proverb puts it another way: “When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.” That’s great advice. Perhaps in 2022 we should all resolve to not only embrace but express our gratitude to those who toil behind the scenes to make our lives easier. It’s good for our emotional health, and good for our physical health.
Judge Prudenti is the Dean of the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.
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