Retired chief justice, future lawyer to address grads

April 18, 2012

When members of Indiana State University's class of 2012 come together May 5 for commencement, they will hear from a distinguished jurist and from one of their own who plans to go on to law school.

Former Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard will deliver the commencement address while Morgan Wendlandt will deliver the student address to her fellow graduates.

The university will present Shepard, who recently retired as the nation's longest serving state chief justice, with an honorary doctorate. Throughout his 27-year tenure on the state Supreme Court and as chief justice, Shepard frequently lectured at Indiana State. He received the ISU President's Award in 2009.

Following his retirement as chief justice in March, Shepard is serving as a senior judge in the state court of appeals and as a director of Justice at Stake, a national organization that advocates for impartial courts untainted by campaign contributions. He is also a visiting scholar at the University of Cincinnati College Of Law.

A seventh generation Hoosier, Shepard was born in Lafayette but his family later moved to Evansville. He entered public life as executive assistant to Evansville Mayor Russell Lloyd and went on to serve as a superior court judge in Vanderburgh County from 1980 to 1985, when Gov. Robert Orr appointed him as the 99th justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. He became chief justice of Indiana in 1987 and was for a time the youngest chief justice in the nation. As a justice, he authored more than 800 majority opinions. He also published more than 40 law review articles.

Shepard served as president of the National Conference of Chief Justices in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Shepard to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee of Civil Rules, which the court uses to form changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In 2007, Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Shepard, along with former Gov. Joe Kernan, to co-chair the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. Shepard has served as a chairperson of the Indiana State Student Assistance Commission and as a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He has also chaired the American Bar Association Appellate Judges Conference.

Shepard is an Eagle Scout and has received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. He graduated from Princeton University in 1969 and from the Yale Law School in 1972, and earned a Master of Laws degree from the University Of Virginia School Of Law in 1995.

After being urged by her grandfather to apply to be the speaker at spring commencement, Wendlandt decided it might not be a bad idea.

At first, Wendlandt admits, she just wrote the speech on a whim but when she started to write, she realized how passionate she was about ISU and how much she wanted to be able to address her class and the university, she said.

"I did not realize how much I love this school and how much it gave to me until I was writing this speech," Wendlandt said.

Wendlandt's grandfather, Jerry Brookman, a retired proofreader and advertising designer at the Milwaukee Journal, died in November, giving her her even more incentive to finish the speech in hopes of being chosen.

"It is hard to explain his influence and importance in my life in just a few words but to be short, he was my best friend," Wendlandt said of her grandfather. "He was my biggest fan and my most faithful guide throughout my life. He knew when to be supportive, when to be critical, when to put challenges in front of me and when to simply make me laugh."

The theme for speeches this year was the opportunities provided by Indiana State. Wendlandt, a senior marketing major and creative writing minor from Fort Atkinson Wis., turned her speech into a metaphor, which she hopes other students will be able to relate to, she said.

Wendlandt's interest began with Indiana State's soccer program but when she came to visit the university "kind of stole her heart," she said.

During her time at Indiana State, Wendlandt participated in many activities including the women's soccer team, the Honors Program and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Wendlandt was also awarded with a President's Scholarship, which she maintained all four years.

"My time at ISU has been a journey to say the least," Wendlandt said. "When you walk onto campus there are many different paths you can take but they all lead to commencement and I was lucky enough to be able to take almost every path all the way there. It's been a ride."

Depending on whether she stays in Indiana or goes back home, Wendlandt would like to attend Indiana University or the University of Wisconsin-Madison for law school.

Wendlandt knows that her family at home is excited because they know this is something her grandfather wanted her to do. Hopefully, he will be listening, she said.

"I am proud of my experience here at ISU and the person I have become and I know he would be as well," Wendlandt said.

Indiana State's spring commencement ceremony begins at noon on May 5 in Hulman Center. It will be streamed live on the university's website, www.indstate.edu. The webcast will begin at 11:30 a.m.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Headshot-Proofs/Commencement-Spring-2012/i-HfFgWS2/0/L/SC-Shepard9-17-08-019-L.jpg - Randall Shepard

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Headshot-Proofs/Commencement-Spring-2012/i-zqNkxGJ/0/L/032112morgan-wendlandt-1716-L.jpg - Morgan Wendlandt

Media contact: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu