August 02, 2006
SIUC to honor Mikva at commencement ceremony
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Retired federal judge and presidential adviser Abner J. Mikva will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale at summer commencement exercises Saturday, Aug. 5.
A public servant for more than 50 years, Mikva is senior director and visiting professor at the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago. Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich last week appointed Mikva as chair of the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
"Judge Mikva is an extraordinary American," SIU School of Law Dean Peter C. Alexander said. "He is one of the few people to devote part of his professional life to public service in all three branches of our federal government. His contributions are certainly deserving of recognition by the University."
Judge Mikva will be available to meet with members of the media between 8:40 and 9:10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, in the Saluki Room in Lingle Hall, adjacent to the SIU Arena.
Mikva will speak at the commencement ceremony, which begins at 9:30 a.m. at the SIU Arena. Chancellor Walter V. Wendler and Wenona Y. Whitfield, the law school's associate dean for academic affairs, will present the honorary degree to Mikva. He will also tour the law school during his visit.
The SIU Board of Trustees voted in March to present Mikva the honorary degree.
A Wisconsin native, Mikva earned his law degree from the University of Chicago law school in 1951. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton from 1951 to 1952, then returned to Chicago to practice labor law with Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.
In 1956, Mikva, a Democrat, ran against the famed Democratic machine and won election to the Illinois House – where he served for five consecutive terms. Along with the late Paul Simon, Mikva fought for fair housing and against corruption in the state welfare system. While in the Illinois House, Mikva and Simon were original sponsors of legislation creating the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Mikva also wrote sweeping legislative reforms of the state criminal code and Illinois' mental health facilities.
Mikva served five terms in Congress. President Jimmy Carter nominated him in 1979 for the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia, where Mikva served for 16 years. He became chief judge in 1991, writing more than 300 opinions.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton asked Mikva to give up his lifetime appointment to the bench and replace Lloyd Cutler as White House counsel. He served in that capacity from Oct. 1, 1994 to Nov. 1, 1995.
Mikva also served as an observer for elections in the Dominican Republic in 2004.
Mikva has taught courses at Northwestern University School of Law, Duke University Law, University of Pennsylvania Law, Georgetown University Law Center, American University's Washington College of Law, and the University of Illinois College of Law.
Helping students develop leadership skills and a moral and ethical perspective on the world are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.