Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush to SPEA grads: “You’re making your communities better places”

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush served as the keynote speaker for SPEA’s annual graduation dinner, held Friday night at the Skyline Club in downtown Indianapolis.

Rush, who was appointed to the state’s highest court in 2012, shared the story of her journey from humble beginnings in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to her rise to Chief Justice, and she praised graduates for their commitment to making a difference in the lives of others during her 20-minute address.

“People probably ask you, ‘Why are you majoring in this? Why aren’t you in STEM?’” Rush said. “Well, what you’re doing is making the world, your communities, your cities, your counties, better places.

“Majors in making a difference,” she added. “That speaks to my heart.”

The daughter of a railroad man, Rush moved 16 times during her childhood – “from Hoboken to the South Side of Chicago” – before her family eventually settled in Indiana. She attended the IU Maurer School of Law after graduating from Purdue and spent 15 years as an attorney before being elected Tippecanoe Superior Court 3 judge in 1998.

While practicing law, Rush said she was still drawn to the same causes and passions of SPEA graduates. She volunteered at a women’s shelter, was a Big Sister, and served as a court-appointed special advocate for juveniles in the system.

Rush said she learned a valuable lesson from former Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard and imparted the same wisdom to SPEA graduates.

“When you’re involved with (important) issues, go out there, get out of your office, go out into the communities and see what it’s like,” Rush said. “Chief Justice Sheperd said, ‘As judges, get out from behind the bench. Do not be an ivory tower person who doesn’t know what’s like for the people you’re treating and dealing with.’”

Rush concluded by telling SPEA graduates that when she looks out at them she sees hope and reminded them that the choices they make when no one is looking is what will ultimately define them.

“Your generation, you SPEA graduates, are using your talents to affect social change. We need you. We need a hopeful generation,” said Rush, who was presented with the school’s Distinguished Service Award.

“Choose a passion,” she said. “Choose a cause that you’re willing to stick your neck out for; take a risk. But have fun while you do it. If you’re not passionate about something you’re missing something essential to your life. For who knows where that passion will take you.”

Students and faculty were also recognized during Friday night’s ceremony. This year’s award winners include:

Student awards

  • Spencer Lawson, Outstanding BSCJ Student
  • Brandy Wood, Outstanding BSPA Student
  • Lauren Kenney, Outstanding MSCJPS Student
  • Lydia Speler, Outstanding MPA Student
  • Said Saadi, Outstanding Executive MPA Student
  • Sawyer Knuteson, Philip J. Rutledge award

Faculty awards

  • Eric Grommon, Trustees’ Teaching Award
  • Tim Dickinson, Favorite Undergraduate Professor
  • Bill Estabrook, Favorite Undergraduate Adjunct Faculty Member
  • Brad Ray, Favorite Graduate Professor
  • Jamie Levy, Favorite Graduate Adjunct Faculty Member
  • Saba Siddiki, Executive Education Distinguished Faculty Award

Faculty service awards

  • 15 years: Mark Akers, Jamie Levy, Sarah Robinson
  • 20 years: Teresa Bennett, Drew Klacik
  • 25 years: David Dreyer, Patrik Madaras

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