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Former Gov. Jim Thompson to speak, receive honorary degree at May 25 law commencement

May 21, 2013
James R. Thompson

James R. Thompson

The Northern Illinois University College of Law will present former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson with an Honorary Doctorate of Law during its Saturday, May 25, commencement ceremony, where he will also be featured as the commencement speaker.

The ceremony begins at 2 p.m. in the NIU Convocation Center.

The criteria to receive an honorary law degree include having a distinguished record of achievement in law or a law-related field and embodying the core values of the College of Law, including public service, leadership, professionalism, access to justice and education and diversity.

In his professional career, Gov. Thompson has received a plethora of well-deserved awards and achievements. He was ranked No. 83 in Chicago Magazine’s 2012 list of the “100 Most Powerful Chicagoans.” He was listed in 1997, 2000, and 2013 by the National Law Journal as one of the nation’s 100 most influential lawyers.

He was selected as the 2012 Chicago Business Legacy Award Honoree by the Jobs for Youth Legal Industry Council. He holds the Alumni Medal of Northwestern University, the Justice John Paul Stevens Award from the Chicago Bar Foundation (2003), and the Laureate Award from the Illinois State Bar Association Academy of Illinois Lawyers (2000).

“His lifelong commitment to public service serves as a model for our community, especially our students,” said NIU College of Law Dean Jennifer Rosato. “He very much embodies our core values, and we are looking forward to his commencement address.”

Not only does Thompson have a distinguished career in law and public service, but also has an affinity to NIU Law. He gave a moving tribute at Professor Francis X. Riley‘s memorial service some years ago. Riley, one of NIU Law’s most renowned professors and advocates, was a long-time mentor and friend to Gov. Thompson.

Symbol of the State of IllinoisThompson served the State of Illinois as governor for 14 years, the longest-serving chief executive in Illinois and a passionate advocate for Illinois’ interests nationally and internationally.

He was noted for his skill in settling difficult labor-management problems and his ability to manage one of the nation’s largest public budgets while maintaining one of the nation’s highest state bond ratings.

Not only was a successful governor who enjoyed broad public support, but he also was an innovator and a leader among other governors. He served as chairman of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), the Midwestern Governors’ Conference, the Council of Great Lakes Governors and the Republican Governors’ Association.

His commitment to public service did not end with his successful terms as governor. He has served on a variety of committees addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, including violent crime, child protection, infant mortality and teen pregnancy. His significant service at the national level included chairman of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board under President George H.W. Bush, and he was appointed commissioner on the 9-11 Commission by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

Thompson is also a leader in the private practice of law, thus furthering his distinguished record of achievement in law. He currently serves as senior chairman at Winston & Strawn, after serving as chairman of the Executive Committee of Winston & Strawn (1991-2006), and chairman and CEO of the firm from 1993 to 2006. During this time he oversaw the growth of the firm, both domestically and internationally.

He is a former chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission. He was co-chairman of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Crime in 1981; national co-chairman of the campaign to Protect Our Children in 1986; a member of the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality in 1986; chairman of the NGA Task Force on Electric Utility Transmission Policy in 1986; chairman of the NGA Task Force on Teen Pregnancy in 1987; and chairman of the NGA Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure in 1988.

Thompson received his law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1959, and received his undergraduate training at the University of Illinois and Washington University.