Gerald VandeWalle, Class of 1958, Delivers UND Law School's Commencement Address

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News Article

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School of Law


On May 5th, 2012, North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice, Gerald VandeWalle spoke to UND Law School's class of 2012 at their commencement ceremony. Dean Kathryn R.L. Rand eloquently introduced Justice VandeWalle as one of UND Law School's most influential alumni.

To read the complete text, or to view a video of Justice VandeWalle's address, please visit:

Below is the text and video of the introduction of Chief Justice VandeWalle by Kathryn R. L. Rand, Dean of the UND School of law.

By tradition, a commencement speaker is a person who has achieved distinction in his or her professional career, and who can be counted on to provide new graduates with sound advice. I am absolutely delighted that the Class of 2012 has chosen as its commencement speaker Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chief Justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court. Without doubt, he ably meets both qualifications.

Chief Justice VandeWalle's legal career began right here. In 1958, he stood in your shoes as a newly minted graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law. In the 54 years since his graduation, he has amassed a record of professional practice and public service that is impeccable, indispensable, and inspirational.

Law is not a mere occupation. It is not just a job. It is a profession, with concomitant values and duties. For the best attorneys, it also is a calling. A calling to make our laws as wise and fair as possible, to make our legal system as just and accessible as possible, and to make our society as true to the values of our democracy as possible. To Chief Justice VandeWalle, the law has been a calling. As he has said, "The highest calling for a lawyer is service to others."

The Chief's career exemplifies service to others. For more than 50 years, he has served the people of North Dakota, first in the state Attorney General's Office, and, since his appointment to the bench in 1978, on the North Dakota Supreme Court. He has been elected to full ten-year terms on the Court in 1984, 1994, and 2004. Having earned the highest respect of his judicial colleagues throughout the state, they elected him to serve as Chief Justice effective January 1, 1993, an office that he holds to this day.

The Chief's service to our state has made a lasting impact on the legal profession in North Dakota, contributing to greater professionalism, competence, and ethical practice by North Dakota attorneys. He provides outstanding leadership to the judicial branch of our state government, constantly striving to improve the administration of justice and promoting the important role of the courts and the legal profession in the quality of life of our citizens.

But his service, and his significant contributions, are not limited to our state. An extraordinarily active and engaged jurist during his more than 30 years on the bench, Chief Justice VandeWalle has been appointed and elected to nearly countless national associations and committees, including his appointment by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist to the Federal- State Jurisdiction Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. He has served as President of the national Conference of Chief Justices; Chair of the National Center for State Courts; and Chair of the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, the accrediting agency for U.S. law schools.

Chief Justice VandeWalle is not only the most respected jurist in our state, he is one of the most respected state supreme court judges in our nation. His contributions to the legal profession and to legal education have been recognized through numerous awards and accolades, including the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award and the American Bar Association's Kutak Award. Perhaps no other graduate of this law school has given so much to our state, to the legal profession, and to our society.

Thanks to his service and dedication to North Dakota, Chief Justice VandeWalle already has inspired our graduates. When I asked the students why, out of all possible commencement speakers, they wished to have the Chief Justice address their class, their friends, and their families on the occasion of their law school graduation, here is what they told me:

"When selecting our speaker, the Class of 2012 looked to select someone who would send us forward with a message reminding us to give back to our communities with our newfound responsibilities. Chief Justice Vandewalle's impeccable record of service to the State of North Dakota and the legal profession as a whole is a shining example of the character we can aspire to be in the legal profession. We are honored to have a member of the North Dakota Supreme Court as our commencement speaker, but when we consider Chief Justice VandeWalle's decades of service, the honor is an exceptional one."

The honor is an exceptional one. And I'm going to make an exceptional request. Please join me thanking Chief Justice VandeWalle for his exceptional service to our state and our profession by standing as we welcome the Chief to the lectern for his commencement address.