The decision of who will be appointed to speak is generally left to the Office of the President, with suggestions and comments contributed by students. Future suggestions are welcomed, but for this year, President Christopher Thomforde selected Page to join the ceremony, which will be held May 30 at 2:30 p.m.
"Justice Page was our first choice," Thomforde said. "He is a distinguished jurist and a steady, positive public servant who uses his intelligence and opportunities to make Minnesota better."
Seniors generally agree with Thomforde's decision. While Kassie Linstroth '04, a Packers fan said, "My only problem with him is that he's a Viking; I think I will wear a cheesehead instead of my cap." Other seniors are pleased that they will be hearing such an celebrated individual.
"We are proud to have someone so accomplished," Mandy Erdmann '04 said.
Many are delighted to have someone with such a resume. As Crystal Malcomson '04 said, "We are impressed with his credentials."
An All-American football star at Notre Dame, Page was a first-round draft of the Minnesota Vikings in 1967. He became the NFL's first defensive player to be named the league's MVP in 1971. While Page played in the NFL, he attended the University of Minnesota Law School and earned his law degree in 1978. A year later, he began practicing law with a Minnesota firm.
In 1988, Page and his wife established the Page Education Foundation, an organization that conducts programs and provides leadership to motivate young people to continue and complete their education. The foundation gives scholarships to minority college students who promise to return home and volunteer with other young people. Page also helped establish the Kodak/Alan Page Challenge, a nationwide essay contest encouraging urban youth to recognize the value of education.
In 1987, Page was elected assistant attorney general for Minnesota. Then, in 1993, he was appointed an associate justice to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the first African-American to hold the position. He continues to be an inspirational figure to minorities as a mentor, celebrated athlete and jurist.
"I am really excited to hear Justice Page speak at commencement. He has led such an interesting life and will have lots to share with the graduating class," Megan Astry '04 said. Other seniors agreed.
"He has so many life experiences," Greta Goerss '04 said. "He'll be able to appeal to a great diversity of students and speak on more than just academia."
Thomforde feels confident that Page will have much advice to offer the graduating seniors.
"Justice Page exemplifies what the St. Olaf mission hopes its students will aim for: to become well rounded, intelligent and moral human beings," Thomforde said. "He is someone who we could aspire to all be like. He will bring a distinguished bearing, a presence of decency, intelligence and moral engagement."