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Lawton professor, trial lawyer to speak at commencement ceremonies

Florida State University's Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Thomas Joiner and Florida State alumnus and trial lawyer Eugene E. Stearns will speak at fall commencement ceremonies.

Thomas Joiner (left) and Eugene E. Stearns

About 1,800 of more than 2,700 graduating students will participate in two ceremonies, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, and 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 11. Florida State President Eric J. Barron will preside at both ceremonies, which will be held at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center and webcast at

Joiner, an internationally acclaimed expert on suicide, will speak at Friday's ceremony for the colleges of Arts and Sciences; Communication and Information; Criminology and Criminal Justice; Law; Medicine; Motion Picture Arts; Social Sciences; and Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance.

Stearns, chairman of the board of directors for Stearns, Weaver, Miller, Weissler, Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A., will address Saturday's graduates from the colleges of Business; Education; Engineering; Graduate School; Human Sciences; Music; Nursing; and Social Work.

Joiner was named the 2010-2011 Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor, the university's highest faculty honor, in the spring. As the director of the university's Psychology Clinic, he oversees a staff that treats about 80 patients per week. He researches the nature and treatment of suicidal behavior and the causes and consequences of depression and related disorders, such as anxiety or bulimia nervosa. He has been ranked as the second most productive academic clinical psychologist in the world.

Joiner's critically acclaimed book, "Why People Die By Suicide" (Harvard University Press, 2005), was chosen by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as one of 12 "nonfiction books that mattered" in 2006. Joiner has written or edited 14 other books, including "Myths About Suicide," (Harvard University Press, 2010), and has written more than 400 peer-reviewed papers that were published in scientific journals.

Joiner has received both the David Shakow Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution (1997) and the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution (2000) from the American Psychological Association. In 2003, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and, in 2006, he won a Bellagio Residential Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. He earned his doctorate from the University of Texas-Austin in 1993.

Stearns, who holds bachelor's and law degrees from FSU, serves as the chairman of the litigation department of his Miami-based firm. Stearns' trial experience for nearly four decades has been in jury and non-jury trials in state and federal courts in Florida and other jurisdictions, as well as extensive arbitration and administrative law proceedings.

Prior to joining the firm, from 1967 until 1972, Stearns served on the staff of the Florida House of Representatives including the Constitutional Revision Session of 1967, two years as senior staff member of the House Committee on Governmental Reorganization, and two years as chief assistant to Florida's Speaker of the House Richard Pettigrew. In 1970, he co-authored for gubernatorial candidate Reubin O'D. Askew the "Fair Share Tax Plan," which became the principal theme of Askew's successful campaign for governor.

Stearns continues to be actively involved in a host of public policy issues on both the state and federal level. He is a frequent lecturer throughout Florida on issues related to the organization of local government.

In addition to the commencement ceremonies, other graduation activities include:

  • The College of Nursing's Fall 2010 Convocation Ceremony will be held at 1 p.m., Dec. 10, in Opperman Music Hall, located within the Kuersteiner Building.
  • Florida State's Air Force ROTC will commission three cadets at 2:30 p.m., Dec. 11, at the Reubin O'D. Askew Student Life Center Theater. Col. Billy Francis, the Detachment 145 commander and professor of aerospace studies, will preside.
  • Florida State's U.S. Army ROTC will commission three cadets at 2 p.m., Dec. 11, in Board Room 5301, University Center, Building C. Col. Robert W. Duggleby Jr., senior defense official and defense attaché in Hungary, will be the guest speaker.

By Jill Elish
6 December 2010