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First woman on U.S. Supreme Court honored today at UM

Sally Mauk

Retired U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor  received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Montana today.

In 1981, O'Connor became the first woman to serve on the high court, retiring in 2006. In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded O'Connor the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her lifetime achievements.

O'Connor delivered the inaugural address in the UM law school's Jones Tamm lecture series in 1997, and the law faculty recommended her for the honorary degree she received today.

Governor Steve Bullock was among the dignitaries in attendance. He says Justice O'Connor represents the best of what a judge should be - and he thanked her for her pioneering example.

Justice O'Connor used her remarks not to reminisce about her illustrious career but to urge everyone to become involved in their community, at whatever level. She lamented the lack of civic knowledge in young people today.  O'Connor has started a website called "I-Civics" that teaches government in innovative ways.

O'Connor's affection for Montana and UM are evident; she's been here several times to lecture - and to fish.

"As a Westerner and an avid fly-fisherwoman, these visits to your beautiful state, your beautiful campus, have been a special joy to me," O'Connor said.

O'Connor also spent time with high school and university honors students earlier today, and will meet with law students tomorrow.

Retired in 2014 but still a presence at MTPR, Sally Mauk is a University of Kansas graduate and former wilderness ranger who has reported on everything from the Legislature to forest fires.
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