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IU Northwest to bestow honorary degree at Annual Commencement on May 11

Hon. Robert D. Rucker

Photo caption: Hon. Robert D. Rucker 

Indiana University Northwest will host its 57th annual Commencement on Thursday, May 11 beginning at 10 a.m. The ceremony will take place on the Northwest campus.

At the ceremony, President Pamela Whitten, joined by Chancellor Ken Iwama, will bestow an honorary doctor of law to the Honorable Robert D. Rucker, former 105th justice of the Indiana Supreme Court and IU Northwest alumnus.

Rucker was appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court in 1999 and served until his retirement in 2017.

Rucker grew up in Gary, supporting his college education at IU Northwest by working in the steel mills. His studies, however, were interrupted by his service in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Army.

Following, Rucker returned to IU Northwest earning a Bachelor of Arts; later earning his law degree from Valparaiso University.

Before joining the Indiana Supreme Court, Rucker served as a judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals, as vice chair of the Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education. He is the only Court of Appeals judge ever to be elevated to the Indiana Supreme Court, where he was the second African American justice to serve.

In recognition of receiving an honorary degree from IU Northwest, Rucker stated, “I am so honored to be recognized by my alma mater. It is amazing.”

Rucker also served as a deputy prosecuting attorney for Lake County, Indiana, and as the attorney for the city of Gary. In honor of his lifetime of contributions, the courthouse in downtown Gary was named the Robert D. Rucker Courthouse. He also had a general legal practice in East Chicago, Indiana.

“As a scholar, a distinguished jurist, and engaged citizen, Justice Rucker opened the door for opportunity, equity and inclusion, to improve the lives and prospects for people of historically under-represented backgrounds,” said Ken Iwama, Chancellor of IU Northwest. “His work, his legacy and his name stand as a powerful testament to his care and regard for all Hoosiers, something to which the IU mission commits us.”

Professor of History and former IU Northwest Chancellor, William J. Lowe, nominated Rucker for this award.

IU Honorary Degrees are awarded only to those who have demonstrated high standards of excellence in scholarship or creative activity; in professional achievement; in public service to the world, the nation, the state, or the community; or in wholehearted commitment to IU.

The last honorary degree granted by IU Northwest was to Earline Rogers, former Indiana senator and educator, in 2017.

For guests who wish to attend Commencement, gates will open at 8 a.m. All guests are encouraged to be seated by 9:30 a.m. Seating is first come, first served. Tickets are not required to attend Commencement.

About the IU Northwest Class of 2023

IU Northwest will confer 749 degrees at this year’s ceremony. The Class of 2023 will collectively receive 32 associate’s degrees, 586 bachelor’s degrees and 131 master’s degrees. Seventy-seven percent of this year’s graduating class are female and nearly 30 percent are over the age of 30. The most numerous degree to be granted is the Bachelor of Arts followed by the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The oldest and youngest graduating students are 64 and 20 years of age, respectively.

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