Posted by Aurora University on May 10, 2019
Rita B. Garman, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Aurora University during its spring Commencement ceremony. The degree was presented by Tom Cross, JD, Executive Director of the Institute for Collaboration at Aurora University, on behalf of the institution’s board of trustees.
“For 45 years as an Illinois judge, Rita Garman has embodied the Aurora University core values of integrity, citizenship, continuous learning and excellence,” said Cross. “She has dedicated her life to public service, advocating for fairness and civility in the court system. She has been a proponent of prompt decision-making, ensuring justice for all. In addition, she has made efforts to educate the public, ensuring that citizens are better informed about the work of courts.”
Garman was born in Aurora, Ill., and graduated as valedictorian of her Oswego High School senior class. At the University of Illinois, she majored in economics and completed her bachelor’s degree in 1965 with highest honors, qualifying for recognition on the institution’s distinctive Bronze Tablet. Law school at the University of Iowa came next, where Garman earned her Juris Doctor degree with distinction.
Following completion of law school, Garman began her career at the Vermilion County Legal Aid office. She later served as an assistant state’s attorney in Vermilion County before entering into private practice. Her judicial career began in 1974 and subsequently extended to service in virtually every capacity in the Illinois judiciary: associate judge, circuit judge, presiding circuit judge, appellate justice, presiding appellate justice, Supreme Court justice, and chief justice. As the 119th chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, Garman was the second woman in the history of the state of Illinois to hold the office.
Upon her acceptance of the honorary degree, Garman addressed the graduates and offered advice based on her professional experience. “I encountered more than a few obstacles along the way in my career,” said Garman. “Indeed as a new lawyer I had a hard time finding my first job because at that time they would have said, ‘What would we do with you? You’re a woman. No one wants to talk to you.’ But I persisted. When I couldn’t reach a goal directly, I changed courses and reached it anyway. You may need to do the same. You must be the source of your own confidence and your own ambition. Obstacles may be in your way, but no one can make you give up your dreams.”
Garman was presented with the honorary degree during the graduate Commencement ceremony, in which 545 candidates participated. The undergraduate Commencement ceremony followed with 750 candidates.