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May 11, 2001


DALLAS (SMU) -- Southern Methodist University will confer two honorary degrees during its 86th annual commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19, in Moody Coliseum, 6024 Airline Road.

This year's honorary degree recipients are musician and philanthropist Van Cliburn, who will receive a Doctor of Arts degree, and federal Judge William Wayne Justice, who will receive a Doctor of Laws degree. The university also awarded King Juan Carlos I of Spain an honorary Doctor of Arts degree March 30 when he visited SMU to attend the International Festival of Opening Events for the new Meadows Museum.

Judge William Wayne Justice

Dubbed the "Real Governor of Texas" because of his control over the state prison system and his landmark rulings on desegregation and bilingual education, senior U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice has brought substantial reform to Texas government in his more than 30 years on the federal bench.

Justice was appointed a federal judge in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. A former trial lawyer and federal prosecutor, Justice oversaw the virtual integration of all Texas public schools and, in a 1981 case, ruled that bilingual education should apply to all 12 public school grades.

His most famous decision, however, resulted in a complete overhaul of the state's prison system, the 1972 Ruiz vs. Estelle lawsuit, in which he declared Texas prisons to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment or "cruel and unusual punishment" clause. The ruling led to millions of dollars in state spending on new prisons in the 1980s and 1990s. His ruling in Plyer vs. Doe, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, allowed the children of undocumented aliens to attend public schools without payment of tuition.

Justice received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1942. He has been a member of the American Bar Association, the Institute of Judicial Administration, the American Judicature Society and the Judicial Ethics Committee, Judicial Conference Review Committee and the Joint Committee on the Code of Judicial Conduct. His many awards and honors include the Order of the Coif, the NAACP Texas Heroes Award, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Lifetime Achievement Award and the Texas Civil Liberties Union Outstanding Federal Trial Judge Award.

The day before commencement, Friday, May 18, the university will host a colloquium on the impact of Justice's legal work. "William Wayne Justice: In Theory and Practice," will be from 1 to 4 p.m., Friday, May 18, at SMU's Dedman School of Law in the Hillcrest Courtroom in the Underwood Law Library featuring the following panel:

  • John Attanasio, dean of SMU's Dedman School of Law and the William Hawley Atwell Chair in Constitutional Law
  • Malcolm Feeley, University of California at Berkeley law professor and an expert in constitutional law
  • Lucas Guttentag, former law clerk and an attorney for the New York City American Civil Liberties Union Chapter's Immigrant Rights Project
  • Darren Hutchinson, SMU's Dedman School of Law professor and expert in constitutional law
  • Senior U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice
  • Steve Martin, former general counsel of the Texas prison system and author of Texas Prisons: When the Walls Came Tumbling Down
  • Richard Mithoff, former law clerk and the plaintiff's attorney for the case that resulted in reforms to the Texas juvenile justice system
  • Judith Resnik, Yale University law professor and a scholar of institutional reform and federal procedure
  • Senior U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders
  • Jordan Steiker, University of Texas at Austin law professor and an expert in constitutional law
  • David Vanderhoof, civil rights attorney who litigated several desegregation cases before Justice.

For more information about the colloquium, call SMU's Dedman School of Law at 214-768-2621.

Van Cliburn

In 1958, at the height of the Cold War, 23-year-old Texan Van Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, making him the first classical musician for whom the city of New York has thrown a ticker-tape parade. He later became one of the highest paid concert pianists of his generation, performing with every major orchestra and conductor and appearing in all of the internationally renowned concert halls. He has made many timeless and popular recordings of major piano concertos, and has developed a vast solo repertoire. The recording he made with Kiril Kondrashin, the Russian conductor with whom he played his 1958 prize-winning performance in Moscow -- "Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1" -- has sold more than three million copies worldwide. In 1962, he established the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which is held every four years in Fort Worth to encourage the development of young artists.

In 1987, after an extended sabbatical, Cliburn performed at the White House at a state dinner honoring Mikhail Gorbachev, then the Soviet Union's General Secretary. Two years later, and 31 years after his triumph at the Tchaikovsky Competition, Cliburn returned to the Soviet Union to perform at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and in Leningrad, which is today St. Petersburg.

Before 1958, Cliburn had already won numerous awards in the United States, including the prestigious Leventritt Foundation Award in New York in 1954, and had appeared with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Dmitri Mitropoulos and with other major American orchestras. Cliburn played in public for the first time at the age of four, and at the age of 12 made his orchestral debut with the Houston Symphony as the winner of a statewide competition for young pianists in Texas. Cliburn studied piano with his mother, Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn, from the age of three until he entered The Juilliard School at 17 to study with Rosina Lhevinne. Mrs. Cliburn studied with Arthur Friedheim, who had been a student of Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt.

Education and encouragement of young artists has been a primary interest of Cliburn throughout his career. In addition to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, he has endowed scholarship programs at The Juilliard School, Cincinnati Conservatory, Texas Christian University, Louisiana State University, the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, and at the Moscow and Leningrad Conservatories.