The student-only sessions with the justice featured approximately 100 students who spent approximately 90 minutes in small group sessions discussing the tenets of good government, public service and democracy.
Students who attended the sessions were nominated by faculty members from various academic programs, including political science, law, business and the honors program.
For the past few years, Justice Thomas has met with USD's political science and criminal justice majors visiting Washington, D.C. on the annual Department of Political Science spring break trip to the capital.�Justice Thomas's visit to the University reflects his continued association with USD.
According to Mary Pat Bierle, an instructor in USD's Department of Political Science and faculty sponsor of the student trips, the justice is well-known for his willingness to meet with students.
"During our Washington visits, our students truly impressed Justice Thomas, which may help explain his willingness to visit with a larger group of our students here in Vermillion," said Bierle.
Tom Cota, a junior political science and business major, not only participated in the day's activities but also met Justice Thomas during one of the political science study trips to Washington. "Yesterday's event was truly amazing. To have the opportunity to meet with a sitting Supreme Court Justice twice is a true honor and great educational experience.�The opportunities that this University, more specifically the political science department, has awarded me are some that I will remember for the rest of my life.�Justice and Mrs. Thomas were extremely gracious with their time, and really had a sincere interest in the students' lives and future plans. I thank them and the department for this opportunity," said Cota.
Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1991, Thomas previously served in the office of the Missouri Attorney General and on the staff of U.S. Senator Jack Danforth.�He also served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education and as chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and received his A.B., cum laude, from Holy Cross College.
William D. Richardson, professor of political science and director of the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership at USD noted, "Our initial research confirms that this is The U'sw first ever visit by a sitting justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.�Justice Thomas has been enormously generous with his time – to the point of insisting on extending the schedule so that he could meet with more students for longer periods of time."
The W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership hosted Justice Thomas, and his visit marked the second in a series of "Edmund Burke Distinguished Speakers." This distinguished speaker series is made possible through a generous donation by USD alumnus James Bunt.
Established in 1997 by the South Dakota Board of Regents as a Center of Excellence, The University of South Dakota's W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership offers 20 students annually the opportunity to pursue an academic minor in Civic Leadership.