Chief Justice of Idaho Supreme Court Offers “Beginner’s Guide to a Remarkable Life”

Tuesday, May 15 2012


By Donna Emert

MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho College of Law alumnus and Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, Justice Roger S. Burdick, offered the College of Law Class of 2012 some tongue-in-cheek advice from poet/satirist Pamela August Russell’s, “A Beginner’s Guide to Mediocrity,” at the college’s 103rd commencement ceremony Saturday, May 12.

Russell’s poem urges those seeking mediocrity to “try not to dream,” concluding with the lines, “Don’t bother to get out of bed. The world is crowded enough without you and your big ideas.”

Burdick then offered an alternative “Beginner’s Guide to a Remarkable Life.” Citing examples from his accomplished 38-year career, including moments of success and failure, Burdick ultimately advised the class to “get used to being leaders,” and to “dream, but stay grounded in reason.”

His brief address included advice that touched upon the core challenge of serving as a mediator, attorney and public servant: “Be honest to yourself and others,” said Burdick. “There are two sides to every story, and rarely is there absolute evil and absolute right.”

With the 2012 commencement, the College of Law celebrated the accomplishments of 107 graduates this academic year, including nine graduating in December. Spring graduates earning Summa Cum Laude honors include: Brandon Taylor Berrett, Kirk James Houston, Alison Christian Hunter and Brian Matthew Schlect. Magna Cum Laude honors went to Doug W. Robertson and Deena M. Tvinnereim; Cum Laude honors to Jeffrey Willam Bower, Kale Dylan Gans, Katherine Anne Hawkins, Jeffrey Hawley Slack and Bradley Craig Sweat.

In total, the College of Law Class of 2012 devoted approximately 9,600 hours to pro bono service.

The Sheldon Vincenti Memorial Award for Exemplary Service, established in honor of the late dean and professor of law, was awarded to Merlyn W. Clark. The award recognizes those who have exemplified the Vincenti spirit by giving exceptional service to the college.

Clark has more the 45 years of experience managing complex civil litigation in state and federal courts, including arguing more than 30 cases before the Idaho Supreme Court.

His remarkable career also includes mediation of more than 700 disputes, and service as a panel member or sole arbitrator in more than 50 arbitration proceedings. Clark also serves as the special deputy attorney general for Idaho.

The Award of Legal Merit is bestowed upon an individual who has brought great credit to the College of Law and to the legal profession through a career marked by high ethical standards, exceptional achievements and contributions to the public good.

This year’s recipient is the Hon. James E. Risch, an alumnus of the University of Idaho College of Law and College of Natural Resources. Risch’s storied career includes public service as Ada County prosecuting attorney and 11 terms as Idaho state senator, including service as majority leader and senate president pro tem. He served twice as Idaho’s lt. governor, and in 2006 served as the state’s 31st governor. In 2008, he was elected to serve in the US Senate, where his assignments have included the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, The Energy and Natural Resource Committee, the Select Committee on Ethics, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Due to a schedule conflict, Mike Roach, state natural resource director, accepted the award on the senator’s behalf.
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The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to more than 70 additional research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.