Nostalgia

On Thursday evening, I gave the George Norris lecture for the political science department at the University of Nebraska Kearney. I graduated from that institution in 1969, although it was then called Kearney State College.

My former law partner, Ed Cook and his dear wife Betty, drove all the way up from their retirement home in Texas to attend. Chancellor Doug Christensen and Senior Vice Chancellor for academic affairs Charles Bicek attended also. Chair of the political science department, Professor Diane L. Duffin, presided over the ceremonies with a wit and dry humor that I enjoyed. She also went out of her way to make my stay truly enjoyable. My dear friend, Professor Peter Longo, introduced me with overly generous remarks. I was touched and flattered by the kindness shown by all.

Bill Kelly, Senior Producer at NET Television & Radio, recorded the event for posterity. (Only the gods know why.) Bill was a good sport and allowed me to incorporate him into my shtick.IMG_0491.kelly

My formal presentation asked whether Nebraska’s first federal judge, Elmer Scipio Dundy, was an activist judge for his ruling in the Standing Bear case. I have written about that issue before in these pages. Like most speeches given from a manuscript, my talk was dry but politely received.

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After my formal presentation, there was a question and answer session. That was fun. There were great questions and a good deal of laughter. I really enjoyed the exchange, and was particularly impressed by the quality of the questions from the students and faculty.

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The only “downside”to the whole affair was the presentation of a collection of old photographs of my college years. Those photographs reminded me of what a callow young man I was 40+ years ago.

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In 1965, I came to Kearney State College from Ohio never once having seen the place before. I suspect that I am the only person ever admitted to the college on academic probation. Four years later, the world of the mind had been revealed to me. I owe my alma mater* more than I can ever repay. Thursday evening reminded me of my debt.

RGK

*Roughly translated from Latin, alma mater means “kind mother.” That was certainly true for me.

7 responses

  1. Judge:
    The ancient Greek definition of the word “nostalgia”, as I understand it, is the pain that comes for an old wound. However, it is obvious that you experienced nothing but pleasure after having returned to your alma mater to give your lecture. The esteem in which your alma mater holds you is a tribute to something other than grades or other literal accomplishments. And that is exactly as it should be.
    Robert

  2. Congratulations, Rich! I did tell Professor Duffin I hoped the lecture would be recorded for posterity (and for my own selfish reasons, since I was out of state and unable to attend). It was very fitting that you delivered the Norris lecture, “fighting liberal” that you are!

  3. Dear Judge,

    Please know that Karen and I enjoyed the evening at least as much as you did, but in lesser roles. While I was interested in your brush with scholastic probation — in what is probably an admission against interest for me — please know that you are not the only attorney who has endured “scholastic probation” and survived.

    In my case, the dreaded S/P was the result of a total of nine credit hours consisting of Math 14 and Math 18. Never having been very adept with numbers, I managed to reach grades of “2” in each and both of those courses. This was on a scale of 1 to 9 where “1”was failing. For me and apparently for my draft board, just passing was not enough. My grade point average plummeted. Scholastic probation followed. And with that came the loss of my full-ride Regents Scholarship, the evaporation of my student deferment from the draft, and the “Greetings” from my fellow citizens who comprised the Draft Board here in Lincoln.

    The rest, as they say, is “history.” I had begun UNL with the intention of becoming a trauma surgeon. How I became an attorney may have to await a blog of my own. Suffice it to say that standing in an operating room (or, for that matter, in any other place where standing was required), was no longer in my repertoire (thanks to shrapnel which I acquired in Vietnam in 1967).

    So I became an attorney and, to take this story the full 360 degrees, met you several years later as an attorney trying a case in your courtroom. If, for no other reason than that chance meeting and the friendship between us which developed years later, I guess flunking out of school was not so bad after all.

    Best regards, Judge. And thanks for a most enjoyable evening and your most interesting manuscript speech on the Standing Bear trial and Judge Scipio Dundy.

    Jim

  4. Dear Judge,

    Please know that Karen and I enjoyed the evening at least as much as you did, but in lesser roles. While I was interested in your brush with scholastic probation — in what is probably an admission against interest for me — please know that you are not the only attorney who has endured “scholastic probation” and survived.

    In my case, the dreaded S/P was the result of a total of nine credit hours consisting of Math 14 and Math 18. Never having been very adept with numbers, I managed to reach grades of “2” in each and both of those courses. This was on a scale of 1 to 9 where “1”was failing. For me and apparently for my draft board, just passing was not enough. My grade point average plummeted. Scholastic probation followed. And with that came the loss of my full-ride Regents Scholarship, the evaporation of my student deferment from the draft, and the “Greetings” from my fellow citizens who comprised the Draft Board here in Lincoln.

    The rest, as they say, is “history.” I had begun UNL with the intention of becoming a trauma surgeon. How I became an attorney may have to await a blog of my own. Suffice it to say that standing in an operating room (or, for that matter, in any other place where standing was required), was no longer in my repertoire (thanks to shrapnel which I acquired in Vietnam in 1967).

    So I became an attorney and, to take this story the full 360 degrees, met you several years later as an attorney trying a case in your courtroom. If, for no other reason than that chance meeting and the friendship between us which developed years later, I guess flunking out of school was not so bad after all.

    Best regards, Judge. And thanks for a most enjoyable evening and your most interesting manuscript speech on the Standing Bear trial and Judge Scipio Dundy.

    Jim

  5. Dear Jim,

    Joan and I enjoyed being together as well. I truly appreciate your kind remarks, if not your penchant for catching my stupid spelling errors.

    All the best.

    RGK

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