Two Distinguished Alumni Honored

Two Willamette University College of Law alumni, The Honorable Otto R. Skopil, Jr. BA'41, LLB'46, LLD'83 and Bruce Williams, BA'40, LLB'48, were recently honored at the law school's New Student Orientation on August 25, 2004. In front of a crowd of nearly 300 attorneys, faculty and first-year students, Skopil and Williams, who are lifelong friends and colleagues, received plaques from Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson of the Oregon Supreme Court "for extraordinary service to family, the country, the community and to the legal profession." This isn't the first time Willamette University has honored Judge Skopil. In 1983, the University awarded him with a honorary doctor of laws degree (LLD) and in 1988, he was honored as a Distinguished Alumni.

Judge Skopil, a senior judge with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Bruce Williams, one of the state's great trial lawyers, were law partners for 21 years, from 1951 until 1972, when Skopil was appointed to the Federal District Court of Oregon. The men had uncanny parallels in their personal and professional lives. Both men were born in Salem in 1919. They were childhood friends and together attended Englewood Elementary School, Parrish Junior High and Salem High School, where they were both standout athletes. It was no surprise that both men chose to attend Willamette University at the same time. In the fall of 1940, both entered Willamette University College of Law. Due to World War II, they graduated in different years: Skopil in 1941; Williams in 1948. During the war, Williams distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, winning the Navy Cross and four Distinguished Flying Medals.

During their years as legal partners, Skopil and Williams tried cases in every state court and federal court in Oregon. They jointly tried a number of substantial criminal cases. They worked tirelessly for the Oregon State Bar, with Skopil serving a term on the Board of Governors. Both served the American Judicature Society. Williams also served the Federation of Insurance Counsel, including a term as president and chairman of the board. Both men served the Defense Research Institute, with Bruce serving on its board and executive board. These two friends and colleagues even coached Little League together.

Speaking about the relationship between these two legal greats, Associate Law Dean David Kenagy said during the ceremony, "Their friendship provided support, encouragement, courage and perseverance to serve their community and their country and to use the law as a means to accomplish that service."