Richard Badger holds the notable distinction of having admitted almost half of the University of Chicago Law School’s living alumni, an indication of the impact he has had on the school as he celebrates 40 years of service there.
“If you go anywhere on the road, the first person alumni ask about is Dean Badger,” said Marsha Nagorsky, JD’95, assistant dean for communications and one of the thousands of students Badger admitted during his 28 years as head of admissions. “He is a tremendous asset to the community.”
Admitting students was only one of his responsibilities at the Law School. After serving in Vietnam, Badger, JD’68, returned to his alma mater and took over the career services office in 1971, adding the duties of dean of students and dean of admissions a year later. He even held registrar responsibilities for part of that time. Now, distinct departments spearhead each of the duties he once performed as one position.
“Dick has worn many hats and worn all of them well. He has been extremely valuable,” said Geoffrey Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor, who served as dean of the Law School from 1987 to 1993. “He is good-natured, warm, and upbeat. He deeply believes in the Law School and its values.”
Badger has witnessed many changes over the last 40 years, from the award-winning renovations and expansion of the Eero Saarinen-designed law school to the transformation of student culture that came with an increasingly diversified student body.
“When I first started, the wine messes were more raucous with majority single males,” Badger noted of the dramatic increase and broadening of student organizations over the years. “We just had a Law Wives Club, which is now Amicus, a spouses and partners group.” The Law School currently has about 60 student organizations.
Unlike many of its peer schools, the Law School has been open to women and minority students since its inception in 1902. However, there was still little diversity in the early days. Badger remembers his 1968 Law School class as having only 12 women and few minorities. By the time the 2010-11 school year began, the 633-person JD student body was 44 percent female and 26 percent minority students.
Badger, now assistant dean for graduate programs, focuses his efforts on the Law School’s LLM program, a yearlong master of laws degree that draws mostly international law students. Under his care, he has grown the LLM program and created a warm environment with events like a pumpkin carving party at Halloween and a 60-person Thanksgiving dinner at his home.
“I like it that I have the [international] students over for Thanksgiving and I can give my little talk about the history of Thanksgiving and what the food is meant to be,” Badger told The Record, the Law School’s alumni magazine. “Each day I look forward to dealing with new students and new issues.”
Badger has left his mark on the Law School through the years in other memorable ways, from allowing the highest student bidder to throw a pie in his face at an annual gathering, to participating in the annual Law School softball tournament. He even organized poker parties, something that co-organizer Stone said has provided an important opportunity for young faculty to spend time with more senior faculty and staff. In past years that included former faculty members Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan, who became U. S. Supreme Court Justices.
When Nagorsky was looking at law school options as an undergraduate in New York, she received a brochure from the University of Chicago Law School. She was struck by the friendliness of the materials compared to the more mass-produced literature from other schools. Once she decided on UChicago and was admitted, Nagorsky said the care for details and individual attention continued to impress her. What she did not think about, though, was who was making it all happen.
“That was all Dean Badger,” said Nagorsky. “He was the reason I came to the Law School, but I didn’t know it at the time.”