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Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to deliver commencement address

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be the 2004 Commencement speaker, Stanford's senior class presidents announced Tuesday.

O'Connor, who earned her bachelor's degree from Stanford in 1950 and her law degree from Stanford Law School in 1952, was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Since her appointment in 1981, she has become an increasingly powerful force in formulating key judicial opinions on some of the most contentious political issues of the last 25 years.

Senior class presidents Mary Himinkool, Mikey Lee and Ryan Taylor recommended O'Connor to President John Hennessy.

"I am extremely pleased and proud to accept the recommendation of the class presidents," Hennessy said. "By suggesting Justice O'Connor, the senior class recognized not only her role as a central figure in contemporary U.S. history, they have chosen someone who has deep ties to Stanford on an intellectual and personal level. I know that her reflections will have special meaning for our graduates, and I look forward with great anticipation to hearing her speak."

In a statement released Tuesday, the senior class presidents expressed their enthusiasm for the choice:

"Justice O'Connor received resounding support from the senior class through our nomination process, and we are absolutely thrilled that she has accepted our invitation. She brings insight and perspective to the university community through her experiences as both an undergraduate and graduate student at Stanford. Her life story--one of courage and integrity in the face of challenges--provides inspiration to our class as we approach Commencement. We are honored and privileged that she will share this milestone with us."

Kathleen Sullivan, dean of the Stanford Law School, said O'Connor was an inspired selection.

"Justice O'Connor is a wonderful choice for Commencement speaker," Sullivan said. "A great friend to Stanford and its law school, she has made history twice: once as the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and again through the strength and grace of her opinions, which have kept the court true to its historic role as a moderate counterweight to the extreme positions often expressed in politics."

At Stanford, O'Connor majored in economics and graduated magna cum laude. She enrolled at Stanford Law School, where she took only two years to earn her degree and graduated third in a class of 102. (Her classmate, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, graduated first in the class.) She met her husband, John J. O'Connor III, at Stanford, where he too received his bachelor's and law degrees. Two of their sons, Scott and Jay, also are alumni of the university.

Stanford Commencement will be held on Sunday, June 13, and is part of a two-day celebration for graduates, their families and friends, and members of the Stanford community.