Honorary Degree Recipients
The Honorary Degree Committee, which is composed of deans, faculty, and a student, select the Honorary Degree recipients. The Honorary Degree recipients are usually announced in early May.
John A. Payton (deceased)
Former president and director-counsel
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
John A. Payton will be awarded an honorary degree at the Law Center Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20. He will receive the first posthumous degree awarded by the Law Center in more than a quarter century. Gay J. McDougall, former United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues and the former Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Visiting Professor of Human Rights, will serve as Commencement speaker and accept the honorary degree on behalf of Mr. Payton, her late husband.
Mr. Payton served as president and director-counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) from 2008 until his death in March 2012. During his tenure at LDF, Payton guided the organization to legal victories in Lewis v. City of Chicago, in which a group of African-Americans seeking to be firefighters contended that they had properly filed a charge of discrimination against the city, and Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, which challenged the constitutionality of a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Mr. Payton attended Harvard Law School, where he served on the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Review and assisted with high-profile civil rights cases, including the defense of a 1960s NAACP-led boycott of segregationist merchants in Mississippi. He also clerked for Judge Cecil F. Poole of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco before joining the Washington, D.C., firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale).
Arthur J. Gajarsa
Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Judge Gajarsa has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit since 1997. He has worked for the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior and Department of Defense. After law school at Georgetown, Gajarsa clerked for Judge Joseph McGarraghy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and spent many years in private practice. He has served as a member of Georgetown University's board of directors and the Law Center's board of visitors.
- Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. C'64 L'67
Partner, Williams & Connolly LLP
- Senior Judge Gladys Kessler
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
- The Right Honourable Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
- Judge David S. Tatel
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia