William & Mary Chancellor and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will give the commencement address at William & Mary Law School’s graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 16. In addition, she will receive the Marshall-Wythe Medallion, the highest honor given by the Law School’s faculty, at a dinner in her honor on Friday, May 14. The medallion recognizes outstanding leaders from the bench, bar, and academia. Previous recipients include Professor John H. Langbein of Yale Law School, human rights activist Hauwa Ibrahim, and U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and John Paul Stevens.
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The Law School ceremony, which will be held in the Sunken Garden on the College of William & Mary’s campus, begins at 3 p.m., and approximately 220 students in the J.D. and LL.M. programs will receive degrees. O’Connor also will offer remarks at the College’s campus-wide graduation ceremony, which begins at noon in William & Mary Hall.
“Justice O’Connor enjoys enormous respect and affection among our students and faculty,” said Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas. “We are honored that she will address our students at graduation. We are also thrilled that we can confer on her the Marshall-Wythe Medallion, our law school’s highest honor. As measured by her impact on the development of American constitutional law, Justice O’Connor is one of the most significant jurists of the past half-century.”
Zachariah DeMeola ’10, 2009-10 President of the Law School’s Student Bar Association, said he was honored and delighted that O’Connor will speak at his class’s graduation. “As young lawyers we are fortunate to have such a central figure in American history and American law to send us off into the world and the profession we chose.”
O’Connor became William & Mary’s twenty-third Chancellor in 2006, following her retirement as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. She succeeded former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in the post.
O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
Born in El Paso, Texas, she earned a B.A. from Stanford University and went on to graduate third in her class from Stanford Law School.
O’Connor began her judicial career in 1975, when she was elected judge of the Maricopa County (Arizona) Superior Court. Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt appointed her to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1979. She was nominated two years later by President Ronald Reagan to serve as Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, and was sworn in on September 25, 1981. She served on the Supreme Court for almost twenty-five years.