Today, Mark Udall gave a speech on the Senate floor to honor David Getches, the late dean of the University of Colorado Law School who died last week at the age of 68. Getches, known as an expert in natural resources and Indian law, is credited with changing the landscape of legal training in Colorado by promoting stewardship of public lands and service to our communities, as well as increasing Hispanic enrollment and recruitment.
“I’m not a lawyer, but I know David Getches’ efforts to teach the legal framework that affects our resources could not have been more critical to preserving our Western way of life,” Udall said. “His commitment to a student body from many different backgrounds and cultures made an indelible impact on the school and the Colorado legal community. We have lost a towering figure in the Colorado community, and he will be deeply missed.”
The text of Udall’s speech, as prepared for delivery, follows:
I rise today to honor one of Colorado’s great educators and community leaders, David Getches, who passed away on Tuesday, July 5th 2011, at the age of 68.
Over the past eight years Getches served as Dean of the University of Colorado Law School. With Dean Getches at the helm, CU Law School became one of the most forward-looking institutions of legal training in the country. He steered the school through the construction of the new LEED Certified Wolf Law Building, putting CU Law School at the cutting edge of environmental sustainability and energy efficiency – two ideas intimately tied to the values that Getches was committed to fostering throughout his career. Getches previously served as the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and as an advisor to the Interior Secretary in the Clinton Administration, and had an extensive background in water, environmental and public lands law. Through his work, Getches impressed all Coloradans with the importance of good stewardship of our state’s precious natural resources. I’m not a lawyer, but I know Dean Getches’ efforts to teach the legal framework that affects our resources could not have been more critical to preserving our Western way of life.
Dean Getches also left a lasting impression on the demographic composition of CU Law School. His commitment to a student body from many different backgrounds and cultures made an indelible impact on the school and the Colorado legal community. In 2008, the Hispanic Bar Association awarded him their Community Service Award for increasing Hispanic enrollment, and he also assembled one of the most diverse administrative teams of any law school in the country. Finally, he created a commission to produce a groundbreaking report on diversity in the legal profession, and increasing diversity in law firm recruitment. The highly skilled and diverse alumni of CU law school reflect his efforts.
Getches also built a legacy of equal access to legal education for all. He worked to expand scholarships and financial aid awarded by the law school to worthy students regardless of their financial background, increasing scholarship awards from $600,000 in 2004 to $2.1 million in 2007. In 2008 he worked with the Colorado state legislature to pass a law allowing public universities to offer Loan Repayment Assistance Grants to graduates practicing public interest law, and more recently founded an endowment to award grants to CU law school graduates in the public sector. By reducing the cost of law school, Getches made public service a viable alternative to private practice for bright graduates. Those students, CU Law School, and the state of Colorado will reap the benefits in the future from Getches’ foresight and thoughtful investments.
We can all learn from Dean Getches’ passion for giving back to his community. In addition to serving as the Dean at CU law school and compiling an impressive academic record, he led a life of service, committed to improving the future for our kids and preserving the Western quality of life. I know the importance of giving students the tools they need to one day assume the stewardship of our nation. Dean Getches did this and much more for Colorado and our country. We have lost a towering figure in the Colorado community, and he will be deeply missed.