Owens graduates, photo montage

Commencement Speakers

Keynote Speaker

Justice Judith L. French

Justice Judi French

Judi French became a justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio on January 1, 2013. During her first year on the bench, she participated in hundreds of decisions by the court. But she also found time to travel the State of Ohio, visiting all 88 counties. With a history of public service, Justice French is committed to serving as a resource for the people of Ohio.

For the past two decades, Justice French has dedicated her career to public service. In that time, she has served the State of Ohio as a lawyer for a state agency, an assistant attorney general, counsel to the Governor, and, finally, as a judge.

In 1993, she joined the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as deputy director for legal affairs. From 1997 to 2002, she worked for Attorney General Betty Montgomery as an assistant attorney general, and later as chief counsel.

During her time in the Attorney General's Office, Justice French argued two cases before the United States Supreme Court. One of those cases was the Cleveland School Vouchers case, in which she served as lead counsel. Her successful presentation of the state's position helped ensure equitable educational opportunities for every Ohio student.

From 2002 to 2004, Justice French served as chief legal counsel to Governor Bob Taft. In that role, she served as the chair of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Task Force, which made recommendations to the legislature for making Ohio's sex-offender laws more effective.

In 2004, Justice French was elected as a judge on the Tenth District Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from Franklin County courts and state administrative agencies. While a judge on the court of appeals for eight years, she authored more than 800 legal opinions.

In December 2012, Governor John Kasich appointed Justice French to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Ohio. She became the 155th justice of the Ohio Supreme Court on January 1, 2013.

Although her two decades of public service are critical to her understanding of state laws and the Ohio judicial system, Justice French also has the benefit of experience in the corporate and private-practice arenas. She began her career as an attorney with the Columbus law firm of Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, specializing in environmental law. Justice French also served as in-house counsel for a large manufacturing company.

In 2004, Justice French was recognized as a "Super Lawyer."

The daughter of a schoolteacher, Justice French appreciates her Ohio roots and education, and she is committed to being a part of civic education in Ohio.

Justice French grew up in Sebring, Ohio, a small town in Mahoning County. She graduated from Sebring McKinley High School in 1980, when she started her undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University.

She received three degrees from OSU: a B.A. in political science, an M.A. in history (with a concentration in military history and strategic studies), and a J.D., with honors. She currently serves her alma mater as a member of the Moritz College of Law National Council.

Having learned from so many talented teachers and professors, Justice French is dedicated to serving as a resource to them and their students. As an attorney, she served as a tutor and mentor in the Columbus Public Schools. As a justice, she speaks frequently to students from around Ohio, particularly those studying the Ohio judicial system.

Justice Judi French currently resides in Grandview Heights, near Columbus, with her husband and two children.

Class Representative

Lisa Marie Long

Lisa Marie Long

Lisa Marie Long of Fostoria has been selected as the Owens Community College class representative and will address the graduates during this evening's 48th Annual Spring Commencement Ceremony. She is graduating in Early Childhood Education with a 4.0 grade-point average and Summa Cum Laude honors.

The first person from her family to both attend college and earn a college degree, Long's journey to the Owens Community College Findlay-area Campus started in southern California, where she grew up in sunny San Diego. There, she met her future husband, Richard, and they returned to Ohio in 2009 to be near Richard's family and married in 2010. They now have two boys, ages 10 and 3.

In 2009, Long made the decision to pursue a higher education at Owens and enrolled in Spring Semester 2010.

"I was working 3 minimum wage jobs and was a full-time mom. I was spending savings just to pay my own bills. I wasn't making enough to live. I didn't own a car," she said of the life-changing moment when she decided to go to college. "I was riding on the bus with my son, singing the ABC's. I knew I couldn't go on working these jobs and not being able to pay to live. I had to go to college. I figured out I wanted to be a teacher. The joy I had of being around my son, I wanted that all the time.

"If you have to be away from your children, you want to do something that you love," she said.

Long drew inspiration on her educational path from her husband, who recently completed his degree at Bowling Green State University and now works in student services in Brown Mackie College in Findlay.

She also mentioned Owens Professor Melinda Gray, who "advocated for our class and helped us. We could text her questions at any time. We were Facebook friends and we could contact her on Facebook with questions. She always made us feel we were capable and she wanted us to succeed."

Gray praised Long, writing on Long's nomination, "Throughout her coursework, she has been an exceptional student. She consistently goes above and beyond the required expectations to deliver excellence. Her classmates often look to her for ideas and guidance, which she always rises to the occasion. I look for Lisa to do wonderful things in Early Childhood Education."

This week has been quite memorable for Long, who turned 30 a few days ago and now starts a new life as a college graduate. She said she has two teaching job offers that she is considering. Her ultimate goal is to be a lead teacher, and for that, she said she will need a bachelor's degree. She is currently deciding which 4-year institution to continue her education.

"When you see something changing in a child you are working with, and you know it's because of the work you are doing," Long said, "it's a great feeling."