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