Joseph F. Leeson Jr., United States District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will deliver the commencement address for the 49th commencement exercises at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, on the campus mall between McShea Student Center and Trexler Library. (In case of rain, commencement will be held in Billera Hall.)
During the ceremony, DeSales President Fr. Bernard O’Connor, OSFS, will confer degrees upon 465 graduating students, including traditional undergraduate, graduate, and ACCESS students.
Leeson will be awarded an honorary doctor of law, degree. He graduated from DeSales University in 1977 with a bachelor of science in economics, and from the Columbus School of Law of the Catholic University of America in 1980.
Leeson’s connection to DeSales extends past being just an alumnus. His brother and former law partner Bill, his two children Maureen and Joseph III, and even his courtroom deputy Justin Wood are all graduates of DeSales. Leeson has also been a member of DeSales President’s Council for about 30 years, and his father was president of the DeSales Parents Association.
Upon graduating from law school, Leeson worked in the family law firm Leeson, Leeson & Leeson, a general civil practice with an emphasis on litigation, where he remained a partner until being named to the federal bench. In private practice, he earned certification as a Civil Trial Advocate from the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar and the District of Columbia Bar. He was also admitted to practice before the United States District Courts for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Pennsylvania, the United States Court Appeal for the Third, Fifth, Sixth, Eleventh, and District of Columbia Circuits and the United States Supreme Court.
Leeson previously held elected public office as a member of the City Council of the City of Bethlehem, where he served as Vice President and Chair of the Finance Committee. He also was elected as a member of the Northampton County Government Study Commission where he served to co-author the Home Rule Charter for Northampton County.
Leeson’s involvement with numerous civic and professional organizations is also extensive. He has served as Chairman of the Board of the Lehigh Valley Public Telecommunications Corporation, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, and the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. He formerly served as a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Pennsylvania Public Television Network and represented the Diocese of Allentown as a member of the Administrative Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.
On June 16, 2014, Leeson was nominated by President Obama to be a federal judge, and on December 4 of the same year, he was confirmed by the United States Senate. He currently presides at the federal courthouse in Allentown.
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