Remembering a Marquette Lawyer (and Judge) on the Centennial of His Birth

Tom Curran A week and a half ago, the Law School held our annual Alumni Awards Reception and Conferral—always a highlight of our year. For it enables us to celebrate Marquette Law School’s spirit and ideals by recognizing four exemplars of the genus (or perhaps it’s the species) of the Marquette lawyer.

I had occasion that day to talk with a longtime colleague about past such alumni awards receptions and conferrals, including the one in 2007, where we honored Martin J. Greenberg, L’71, with the Charles W. Mentkowski Award for the Sports Law Alumnus of the Year; (now-Judge) Katie Maloney Perhach, L’00, with the Howard B. Eisenberg Service Award; the Hon. Patricia J. Gorence, L’77, as the Alumnus/a of the Year; and the Hon. Thomas J. Curran, L’48, with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Then, last week, my colleague noted to me that today would have been the 100th birthday of the last of these individuals (the other three, happily, still being active alumni). I relate a brief story about Judge Curran here.

I recall my commendation of him on that occasion in 2007. I said in part this:

You may think that it is his service for almost a quarter-century as United States District Judge here in Milwaukee that recommends [Tom Curran] for this award. And this is relevant, for it is a lifetime achievement award. I am inclined to think, though, that Tom Curran would be receiving this award even if he had never become Judge Curran, for his accomplishments from 1948 to 1983 would have sufficed.

Tom Curran joined his brothers’ law firm in Mauston, Wisconsin, in 1948, and for a brief moment—a year or so—the firm was Curran, Curran & Curran. That did not last, not I am sure because of any difficulty on the part of Irish brothers in getting along with one another, but because one of his brothers left in 1950 to become a circuit judge in Juneau County, where he served for the next 30 years. The firm flourished nonetheless, and today it is one of the largest firms in the state outside of a major metropolitan area (with apologies to the many Currans and others here today from Mauston for my characterization).

Of course, the fact that there are several Currans at the firm still (Judge Curran’s children) does contribute to the numbers somewhat, but you cannot maintain a firm of this size—or even stay in business for so long—without developing a reputation for quality and trustworthiness, and the Curran firm surely has that reputation. And much of that reputation developed during Tom Curran’s 35 years of practice in Mauston.

His own stature as a lawyer meant that Tom Curran was elected by his statewide peers to the presidency of the State Bar of Wisconsin, a signal honor.

I said more, but let me move the story along. I also recall a portion of Judge Curran’s remarks in then accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award:

Given the very special place Marquette already had in the lives of the Currans, it was no surprise, when I was discharged from the Navy in July 1946, that I would come up and enroll at Marquette. And I found myself, four days later, sitting in a classroom, as we then had the three-semester-a-year program, given that probably 95 percent of us were veterans. I would guess that we ranged in rank from a private to a brigadier general—a former brigadier general. The only problem was that the general had trouble remembering the “former” part of it—or at least he did, for maybe two or three weeks, until he ended up in Professor Ghiardi’s class.

Finally, I recall but, alas, cannot directly quote the moment in his acceptance remarks—not scripted, I should think—where Judge Curran turned around from the podium and looked back at Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., then the president of Marquette University, and me.

Judge Curran noted the coincidence of two guys from the South Side of Chicago leading a beloved Wisconsin institution, and his remarks were most generous. This was characteristic of Judge Curran, in my experience: he made that moment not about himself but about others—and about Marquette.

I have never forgotten it or him. It is pleasant to remember a generous and gracious Marquette lawyer and judge both on his 100th birthday and on other occasions.

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Collecting Posts on the Office of Student Affairs and Announcing the 2024 Commencement Speaker

My hope for the Law School early this semester in launching a series of weekly blog posts, one each on ten consecutive Mondays (save only spring break), was to provide some glimpses into our Office of Student Affairs—in important senses, the school’s “main office,” I explained. I may have wryly (which is not to say inaccurately) expressed a more personal hope of passing off some of the costs onto colleagues in that office, who as experts would write most of the entries. My success in the latter respect ensured success in the former.

Here is the collection, together with the authors:

  1. Some Glimpses into the Law School Office of Student Affairs (Jan. 29, 2024) by Joseph D. Kearney
  2. What We Hear (Feb. 5, 2024) by Anna Fodor
  3. Law School Alphabet Soup (Feb. 12, 2024) by Anna Fodor
  4. By the Students, For the Students (Feb. 19, 2024) by Sarah DiStefano
  5. The Students Behind the Marquette Law Mentorship Program (Feb. 26, 2024) by Joseph D. Kearney
  6. We All Work in Student Affairs (Mar. 4, 2024) by Anna Fodor
  7. Tips from a Law School Registrar (Mar. 18, 2024) by Nicole Toerpe Mason
  8. The Office of Student Affairs Presents Financial Wellness Week (Mar. 25, 2024) by Sarah DiStefano and Anna Fodor
  9. Behind the Pomp and Circumstance (April 1, 2024) by Sarah DiStefano
  10. One Final Glimpse into the Law School Office of Student Affairs (April 8, 2024) by Anna Fodor

This series will speak for itself—for some time, I would hope, as, like so much at the Law School, it is a mix of the new and the timeless. Besides providing the foregoing “table of contents,” and without doubting that Assistant Dean Anna Fodor was correct in post no. 10 to “conclude . . . with our annual welcoming of a new class,” my additional contribution here is to announce the Law School’s May 2024 graduation speaker.

The Hon. Albert Diaz, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, will address our graduates, their families and friends, and the faculty, in our ceremony in the elegant Milwaukee Theatre (so much nicer a name for the elegant 1909 building than its new name, the Miller High Life Theatre). I am very grateful for Chief Judge Diaz’s upcoming visit to our community.

Perhaps initially persuaded by his colleague, the Hon. James A. Wynn, Jr., L’79, Judge Diaz has rather adopted us at Marquette University Law School. Whether he thought it an innocent enough matter to lead the panel presiding over the Jenkins Honors Moot Court Finals in 2015, Judge Diaz found himself back here, soon enough, delivering the Hallows Lecture in 2016. It has been a while since (blame the pandemic), but our current students may recognize him from walking past the framed cover of the Marquette Lawyer, which hangs on the wall of the second-floor corridor, overlooking the Zilber Forum, not far from (yes) the Office of Student Affairs. In all events, our graduates will benefit from Chief Judge Diaz’s remarks on the occasion of their sendoff from Marquette Law School.

Or should I say their welcome into the legal profession? To return to a theme from the series just concluded, it can be so hard to distinguish between endings and beginnings.

Continue ReadingCollecting Posts on the Office of Student Affairs and Announcing the 2024 Commencement Speaker

One Final Glimpse into the Law School Office of Student Affairs

This is the tenth and final post in a weekly series about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. Previous posts can be accessed here and at the bottom of the post linked here.

If you do your job well in student affairs, a former colleague once told me, it’s possible that no one will know precisely what you do. The same is likely true across many different departments in many different fields. In this context, it reflects that a lot of our work in student affairs is “behind-the-scenes”—putting together a schedule, organizing important programs, making the trains run on time. This may also mean that a lot of what we do is not especially “marketable.” And yet we want students to know enough about what we do that they recognize our availability to them.

So, for better or worse, this series of posts, initiated by the dean, was an effort to lift that veil a bit. In this final entry, I thought I would take one more crack at it, so that, just like the literal door to our office (in suite 238), the metaphorical door to our office is propped wide open.

On a regular basis, the five members of the Office of Student Affairs gather to discuss upcoming projects on each of our plates. We also, in true summer-camp fashion, go around the table, each of us sharing a highlight and a low point from the prior month or so. Whether you call it “rose, thorn, and bud,” “peach and pit,” or just regular old “high/low,” it’s a chance to reflect on our challenges and celebrate our wins. Here’s a little sampling.

Let’s start with a “rose.” There was the opportunity one of us had recently to attend a graduate’s individual swearing-in ceremony. Few paths to an attorney’s swearing-in are straightforward; they are often marked by challenges, of the academic, professional, and personal variety. Whether as part of the group ceremony following graduation or in an individual ceremony in a small courthouse far from Milwaukee, it’s an occasion for us to celebrate the hard work and dedication of our students.

Then there was the failed email mail merge. The stuff of nightmares really, because this was an email campaign with a tight deadline to be sent to a very large group of individuals. Who could have known that the emails were stuck in some sort of Microsoft purgatory? After a few days, concerned about the nonexistent response rate, we put two and two together. We managed to fix the problem, but not without a healthy dose of stress and frustration first. Sometimes, even if you do everything “right,” things go wrong. It turns out, that’s OK.

We celebrate the cyclical accomplishments—pulling off orientation, registering students for a new semester, getting through another exam period, graduating another class—as much as anything. Each is well-practiced but nevertheless requires an almost obsessive attention to detail, a seemingly endless to-do list, and a constant drive to improve upon the last iteration.

The lowest lows are also the saddest because they don’t involve an event or a task. We keep these intensely private. But we know they’re there, and we work to support our students and each other through these times.

Those lowest lows also put into perspective some other “lows.” Maybe we take an angry call from a community member who is dissatisfied when law school staff could not provide direct legal advice. We do our best to provide resources and referrals with compassion and sincerity and then must accept the outcome.

I’ll conclude (on the positive side of the ledger) with our annual welcoming of a new class. It’s the culmination of the work of student ambassadors, the Law School’s Office of Admissions, our faculty, and—not least—the culture of Marquette University Law School. This “high” has less to do with the contribution of any one team member or office and more to do with the fact that we all hope we are part of something that will allow our students to pursue their goals.

As we wrap up this series, I hope that our work and our team feel a bit more familiar, like people you might turn to if you need a form, want to start a student organization, or are just going through a tough time. And if everything is going fine and you find that you have no idea what happens in the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs but know that you can go there if you need to, we’ll take that as a sign of success. It means we’re doing our job.

Continue ReadingOne Final Glimpse into the Law School Office of Student Affairs