Wheaton College has announced that the commencement speaker for the Class of 2013 will be former Federal District Court of Massachusetts Judge Nancy Gertner.
Judge Gertner is described by Professor of Biology John Kricher, a close friend of the recently announced speaker, as a true “representative of Wheaton values.” Judge Gertner attended Barnard College and Yale Law School. While at Yale, Gertner was roommates with Hilary Rodham (now Clinton) — the future First Lady and Secretary of State. In 1994, Gertner was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the United States District Court in Massachusetts, where she served until 2011. After retirement from her active duties as a federal judge, Gertner went on to work at Harvard Law School, where she still teaches today. She has also taught at the law schools of Boston University, Boston College and Yale.
Gertner is considered a leading expert on human rights issues, specifically in relation to women’s rights. Her autobiography, entitled In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate, reflects upon her trials and tribulations as a humanitarian in the legal field.
She is the second woman, aside from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to receive the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, Section Individual Rights and Responsibilities. Not one of her court rulings has been overruled by a higher judicial authority.
The decision of choosing a commencement speaker is not an easy one. Colleges look for individuals who have achieved success in their field and are trailblazers in their own right. Wheaton will bestow an honorary degree on Judge Gertner this year, who is an emblem of community, passionate and driven — all ideals that are essential to Wheaton’s identity.
“They knew her name,” said Kricher, after she was announced to the faculty as the chosen speaker. Aside from her accomplishments, credentials, and sheer skills as a judge, Gertner is an influential person in the Boston community, with her name commonly referenced in the Boston Globe. The hope is that her selection as commencement speaker serves as a foundation for Wheaton community building, inspiration, and enthusiasm for the student body itself.
Judge Gertner will speak at graduation on May 18.