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Marquette University Alumni Association

Law School Award Recipients

Alumna of the Year Award

Diana SykesHon. Diane Sykes, Law '84
Mequon, Wis.

For Diane, a career spanning nearly 25 years of public service from the bench can be traced back to her 1L Torts class with Professor James Ghiardi. Ghiardi, an icon in Wisconsin legal education who passed away earlier this year, challenged students with difficult material and an emphasis on the traditional Socratic method of legal instruction.

“He expected a lot of his students, and we knew it,” she says. “Setting the bar as high as he did inspired me to work harder to master the complex doctrines in this field of law. It was tough, but I will always be grateful for Professor Ghiardi’s influence on my successful adjustment to this new way of thinking and reasoning.”

Diane served on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court from 1992–99 and as a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1999–2004. She was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in June 2004. Each position had different challenges but also carried an equally rewarding sense of public service that Diane developed at the Law School.

“The service ethic of Jesuit education is alive and well at the Law School,” she says. “I pursued a law degree with the goal of using my legal education in some form of public service. I didn’t know precisely what that might be, but the Law School’s emphasis on service was very reinforcing for me.”