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Rose-Hulman Commencement 2014
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U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Robert Wilkins Receiving Honorary Degree from Alma Mater
May 23, 2014
Robert L. Wilkins
Robert L. Wilkins, a 1986 graduate, credits his years as a chemical engineering major at Rose-Hulman with providing a solid technical foundation for his career as an influential jurist and civil rights activist. He will return to campus on May 31 to receive the Honorary Doctor of Engineering during the institute’s 136th commencement.
Wilkins was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in January, after being nominated by President Barack Obama. He handles appeals from the federal district court and from federal administrative rule-making bodies, including disputes regarding environmental, energy, and communications law.
Prior to assuming his appellate seat, he spent three years on the federal district bench, eight years as a partner with a prestigious D.C. law firm, and a decade as a public defender.
Wilkins was named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year in 2001 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, one of the 40 most successful litigators under 40 by the National Law Journal in 2002, and one of the 90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years by Legal Times in 2008.
A Muncie, Indiana native, Wilkins received the Herman A. Moench Award as Rose-Hulman’s distinguished graduating senior in 1986, and later earned a Juris Doctorate in 1989 from the Harvard Law School.
Wilkins is a recognized expert in racial discrimination and sentencing laws, and has spoken and testified many times before Congress and a number of other institutions and organizations. He helped draft bipartisan legislation establishing the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
He also received the Alumni Association’s Honor Alumnus Award in 2005 for his service to his alma mater and professional achievement. Wilkins was the featured speaker of Rose-Hulman’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week in 2008.
Wilkins lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Amina, and two sons.