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William J. Bauer

Class of 1952
Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit

I enrolled in DePaul’s College of Law (then located at 64 East Lake Street) in September of 1949. The dean was Harry Taft, who ruled the roost with a velvet glove—and a mainly iron fist. He greeted our incoming class (98 percent male and 85 percent discharged WWII veterans) by asking each of us to look at the person to our left who, he said, would not be in school the next semester. Then he said, "Now, look at the person to your right; he won’t be here the semester after that." While this prediction was not absolutely accurate, it was close.

The class of ’52 certainly was in a hurry to get out—by graduation preferably—so the law school scheduled a summer session of six hours in 1950 and 12 hours in 1951. The Korean War led to a Supreme Court order permitting final semester seniors who might face military service to take the bar exam before graduation, but only if the dean of the law school would certify that he thought the applicant could pass the bar.

I set about to successfully convince the good dean to certify me. There were two small hitches in my reasoning: I was a discharged veteran and I would not be a member of that last semester before the bar test was given. At any rate, the dean only asked for assurance that, as he put it, if by some fluke I was successful, I would return and finish law school. I agreed.

Three of my classmates thought this was such a great idea that they also requested certification and, under the theory of "in for a penny, in for a pound," the dean agreed. The Illinois Supreme Court dutifully gave us all the right to sit for the fall bar exam.

Then the state moved the bar exam from September up to the last day of July and the first two days of August. The pace of study increased daily.

We considered that it was too late to retreat so the four of us went to school, took the bar review and all passed the exam. When we graduated, the dean pointed out that DePaul had four graduates whose year of admission to the bar was 1951, but whose JD degrees were dated 1952. It was, he said, a testament to the superior education at DePaul College of Law. We agreed.

My other three classmates have passed on, but I still thank the school and the dean for giving my career an early kickoff. Two months after graduation, I started as an assistant state’s attorney in DuPage County, having already tried three cases to verdict with juries and four to bench trial verdicts. And I am still going strong!

My experience with the faculty, the administration and the university itself was, and is, a continuing inspiration to me.