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50 Years Later: Members of the Class of '67 Look Back

November 13, 2017

Northwestern Law Class of 1967
Northwestern Law Class of 1967

It can be hard to imagine, upon graduating law school, that you might still be connected with your fellow classmates 50 years later. Yet, as decades of alumni reunions have shown, being a Northwestern Law alum uniquely bonds people, and perhaps no graduating class has demonstrated that as clearly as the class of 1967, many of whom gathered at the Law School in October for their 50th reunion.

From individual career accomplishments to collective service to philanthropic support, the class of ’67 is one of the most engaged classes to ever graduate from Northwestern Law. They raised nearly $875,000 in gifts and pledges as part of their reunion, with 46 percent of the class contributing. In 1992, the class raised $1 million to fund the Class of 1967 James B. Haddad Chair at the Law School, in honor of classmate and Law School professor Jim Haddad, who died that same year. (They are still the only graduating class to have endowed a chair.)  In advance of their 50th reunion party, the Northwestern Law Reporter sat down with class of ’67 members Miles Cortez, the Honorable Sophia Hall, and Ronald Futterman, to discuss how they’ve stayed connected through the years, why they still feel grateful to Northwestern Law, and what wisdom they would share with today’s young alumni. 

How does it feel to be back to celebrate 50 years? That’s an important milestone!

Ronald Futterman
Ronald Futterman

Ronald Futterman, former principal at Futterman, Howard Ashley & Weltman:  I haven’t attended prior reunions, though I’ve been at the school quite a bit for one thing or another. But I decided you only have a 50-year reunion once. It’s a significant occasion and I thought it would be fun to catch up with people, some of whom I haven’t seen in 50 years. You know, you think to yourself, how is it possible that 50 years have elapsed? But here you are. It’s been interesting to talk to people and see what they have done and how our careers have gone off in different directions.

Honorable Sophia Hall, Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois:  It seems like a long time, but I’ve been living in Chicago and have been at the Law School for various activities. The school was very supportive when I became the presiding judge of the juvenile court. Bernardine Dohrn [founder and former director of the Children and Family Justice Center] and Tom Geraghy [former director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic] were right in front of me, providing their ideas for how the juvenile court should be improved. So I feel really connected in terms of being supported by the school and having an opportunity to come back.

The class of ’67 has been especially notable in terms of its engagement with Law School. What is it that makes your class different? What engaged you so much as a group? 

Futterman:  One of the things that drew me back to Northwestern Law was the work that Tom Geraghty was doing. When I began to make contributions to the school, that’s where I tried to direct my funds. I really admired what he was doing. I thought he did a fantastic job during his tenure as director of the Clinic and that motivated me to become more involved. He was engaged in some of the idealistic things that I was trying to do as a practicing lawyer.

Miles Cortez
Miles Cortez

Miles Cortez, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, AIMCO:  I would point to a couple of things. First of all, we all knew each other. The class started as a relatively larger class but I think we only graduated 153 or thereabouts, so I knew Sophia, I knew Ron. We all had many, many friends. And then we lost a classmate of ours, Jim Haddad, and he was so well thought of and such a fine student, that we decided as a class that we should honor him by raising some money in order to endow  a chair. It was a lot cheaper to endow a chair back then than it is today! Still, it wasn’t cheap, and it wasn’t like we had all gone out and made a ton of money already. When we announced the plan, quite frankly, I thought it was ambitious. But it was a commitment that we made early on in honor of Jim, and I was so proud that we followed through. I think that triggered a sense of philanthropy in all of us who had a feeling of gratitude for the quality of the education that we had received here.

How have you all been so successful at staying connected? You haven’t had the benefit of social media or other technologies that recent graduating classes have had…

Hall:  I live in Chicago, so I have run into class members who are practicing law in the city. Harvey Barnett (JD ’67) and I shared a moment because he had a case that was on its way to the United States Supreme Court and my case was consolidated with his case and we both ended up going to the United States Supreme Court to argue. Being able to share that moment with a guy I graduated with was kind of amazing.

Cortez:  I spent 31 years in private practice before I transitioned into the business world and I will tell you that maintaining friendships and relationships that I developed here in law school ended up serving me extremely well when it came to referrals. I’ve been in Denver throughout my professional career and dear classmates of mine from Chicago, from Los Angeles, from San Francisco, Atlanta, New York — they would refer me cases. When you’re in the private practice there’s a value in generating business. And it was reciprocal. I would retain my classmates in those cities when I had matters pending there, so that the relationships we developed when we were here and maintained afterwards helped me get established and helped me succeed.

Futterman:  I had a somewhat similar experience although it was in a different context. I was doing plaintiff’s work and a number of our classmates wound up at some of the larger firms doing defense work. I would encounter them from time to time in cases and we would renew acquaintance and I wound up getting referrals from a number of the lawyers I had opposed over the years who I had gone to law school with. That was a very gratifying kind of referral.

When you think of Northwestern Law, 50 years later, what is it that stands out?

Futterman:  I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the school, which is something that has been developing over many years, because I realize now that while we were students, we were being taught a way to approach life and a way to think and evaluate and solve problems. It’s a difficult time, especially as first years, but I think the fact that we were learning together – there’s a connection you build when you go through that common experience.

Sophia Hall
Honorable Sophia Hall

Hall:  I can’t compare our class to other classes because I haven’t been in them, and I can’t compare the school to the culture of other schools because I haven’t been in those, either. But one of the things that sticks out to me, especially since I’ve always had a social conscience in terms of how to use the law to help society, is a class I took back in ’63 or ’64 called Law and Society. That was the culture of the school then and it is the culture now: using the law as a tool to make society better.

Cortez:  This was a transformational time for us. We were in our early 20s and it was the first time we were exposed to the Socratic method of teaching, so it was a different approach to education, but it also came at a critical time in our personal lives.

Futterman:  It was also a very challenging time in the world. When we graduated in 1967, on the day that the bar exam ended was the day that males received in the mail their 1-A notice to report for your physical exam. I remember we had a visit from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and I went to that lecture and the guy stood up there and said, ‘You can come into the Judge Advocate General Corps. It’s a six-year commitment, you’ll be practicing law, or you can go into the infantry.’ That was a pretty profound moment when you have to make that decision. A couple of classmates I believe did go into JAG. Others graduated and went into teaching. They taught in public schools, because that was a deferment.

Cortez:  When I came to Northwestern Law I’d gone through ROTC as an undergraduate, so I already knew I had a commitment for two years that I had to give. I did it because when we were in undergrad there was a risk that you could get drafted during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and I figured the best way to avoid getting drafted out of undergrad was to sign up for ROTC. When I graduated from law school I clerked for a firm here in Chicago, but I knew I was going to have to do my two years of active duty. I ended up going to the Infantry school at Fort Benning and I did go to Vietnam in 1969 and spent a year there.

Futterman:  Here’s one of my most memorable experiences as a student: I was in the library studying and a gentleman comes into the library and sits down across from me, and it was George Lincoln Rockwell, who was the head of the American Nazi Party. This was long before they wanted to march in Skokie. The sight of him sitting there was just appalling to me,  and I was thinking how do we get him out of here? I realized you have to be a student to use the library. The president of the Student Bar Association was also studying there, so I went up to him and said, ‘Tell that guy to leave. You’re the president of the association and he’s George Lincoln Rockwell.’ And he did. He told Rockwell that you’re not allowed to use the library if you’re not a student, and Rockwell got up and left. Shortly after that, he was assassinated by a recently expelled American Nazi. 

What advice do you have for young alumni to guide them through the next 50 years?

Cortez:  Everybody who comes to Northwestern Law is well above average in intelligence, but in terms of succeeding in life it’s not just your intelligence but your industry – that is, how hard you are willing to work – and what kind of a person you are. One thing I want to stress is integrity. There was an emphasis when we were here on ethics. If you have people who have high integrity and people who can relate to and empathize with others and build relationships, I don’t care what walk of life you choose, you are going to be successful and you are going to be a significant contributor to the wellbeing of society.

Futterman:  I think the law school has demonstrated a commitment to quality education on a persistent basis over the years, and also to trying to accommodate students, particularly in the financial area. But I think that Northwestern Law is an institution where the concern about you doesn’t end when you graduate. I would hope that students who are going through the school will retain their commitments to the school in the same way that our class has so that this attitude can be fostered in the future.

Hall:  When we started the conversation, you were asking about how we’ve maintained relationships. I don’t know how intentional that was, I think it was more circumstance — we had some really good relational people in our class. But I think if you are looking for success in any career, and certainly in the legal career, my advice is to be nice to people. If you don’t have those relationships, I don’t care how smart you are or how much money you make, you aren’t going to do any service to your colleagues or your clients because you have to be able to listen and hear your clients to truly represent them and present a case that a judge or someone else you’re persuading to do business can understand. The tool of the law can be very complex, but it shouldn’t get in the way of communicating what’s happening to people. That’s how we move our society forward to something that we will be proud of for our kids.