Lawrence Recognizing Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold with Honorary Degree at 162nd Commencement

Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold will address a record-number of Lawrence University graduates Sunday, June 5 as the speaker at the college’s 162nd commencement on Main Hall green.

Lawrence will award Feingold an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of his 28 years of public service to the state of Wisconsin and the nation.

A Lawrence-record 364 bachelor of arts and/or music degrees are expected to be awarded to 347 students during graduation ceremonies, which begin at 10:30 a.m.

Retiring faculty members James Evans, professor of chemistry and computer science and Ernestine Whitman, professor of music, will be awarded honorary master of arts degrees for their combined 78 years of service to Lawrence.

Michael Orr, professor of art history, presents “Leadership and Liberal Learning” at a baccalaureate service Saturday, June 4 at 11 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The baccalaureate service and commencement exercise are both free and open to the public.

Lawrence President Jill Beck, Board of Trustees Chair Terry Franke ’68 and senior Sarah Ehlinger of Wauwatosa will join Feingold in addressing the graduates.

Russ Feingold

During an 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, Feingold established himself as one of that legislative body’s most independent voices. He was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, opposed President Obama’s decision to expand the war in Afghanistan, was the first senator to propose a timetable to exit Iraq and fought against financial deregulation and trade agreements like NAFTA, which he considered unfair. He was defeated for a fourth term last November by Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson.

Serving on the Senate Budget, Judiciary, Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, Feingold earned a reputation as effective legislator who worked across party lines on both domestic and foreign policy issues. He is arguably best known for his work on campaign finance reform. He co-authored the landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold bill, with Republican John McCain.

“Senator Feingold exemplifies the ‘responsible and meaningful citizenship’ that Lawrence University values, that is central to our mission and that we would like our students to observe in action,” said Beck. “As we celebrate the commencement of the Class of 2011, we are honored to be doing so with a thoughtful and humane leader who exemplifies integrity and independent thinking.”

This spring, Feingold served as a visiting professor at Marquette University Law School where he taught the course “Current Legal Issues: The U.S. Senate.”

Feingold graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin in 1975 and earned a law degree in 1977 from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. After returning to the states, he earned a law degree with honors from Harvard Law School in 1979. Feingold practiced law in Madison with the firms Foley & Lardner and LaFollette & Sinykin from 1979-85.

A native of Janesville, Feingold first ran for public office in 1982, winning a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate. He was re-elected in 1986 and 1990 before successfully running for the U.S. Senate in 1992, defeating two-term incumbent Republican Robert Kasten.

As a U.S. Senator, Feingold made a point of visiting each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties annually to conduct “listening sessions” with voters. This approach was one example of Senator Feingold’s honest desire to represent his state with respect for all of its citizens.