Connecticut College Magazine · Winter 2011


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Courting Success

Courting Success
Robin Wilson '82. Photo by Kathleen Cei

Serving on the student judiciary board taught Robin Wilson '82 an important lesson.

AT THE AGE OF 4, when most children are playing in sandboxes, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Robin Wilson '82 was spelling words like “rendezvous” and “Czechoslovakia” in family spelling bees or scouring maps in home-based geography lessons. By the time she reached sixth grade, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in law.

In May, Wilson's lifelong passion for excellence was honored when she was named a 2011 Fellow of the Connecticut Bar Foundation James W. Cooper Fellows Program. The program was established to honor leading members of the legal profession and the judiciary in Connecticut. Wilson was one of 68 new fellows elected this year.

Membership is by invitation only and fellows are selected based on their exceptional legal ability and their devotion to the welfare of their community, state and nation, as well as the advancement of the legal profession.

“I was completely taken by surprise,” says Wilson, who was honored at a reception May 10. “It is particularly meaningful because I was nominated by my peers.”

Wilson was named to the state's Superior Court in 2003 after distinguishing herself as an assistant attorney general in the state Office of the Attorney General and a workers' compensation commissioner during Gov. Lowell P. Weicker's administration.

She earned her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in 1985 and a master of laws degree from the New York University School of Law in 1998. Wilson is a member of the Connecticut Bar, the Pennsylvania Bar, the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and the United States Supreme Court.

As a Cooper Fellow, she will help advance the Connecticut Bar Foundation's mission “to further the rule of law in Connecticut,” she says. It has always been important to Wilson that all citizens — “regardless of their power or resources” — have access to the justice system, and the work of the fellows includes securing a reliable and sufficient flow of funds to support legal services for persons of limited means.

Wilson says her family helped her foster a sense of social justice, particularly her mother, who volunteered in the local community. Despite her high-powered career, Wilson shoulders a full schedule of public service commitments, including mentoring teenagers as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and organizing youth conferences through the Elm City Adult Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs Inc. She also serves on the College's Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Raised in New Haven, where she still lives, Wilson is assigned to the civil division of the Judicial District of New Haven, where she presides over civil cases. “I always knew I wanted to stay in Connecticut,” she says.

Growing up in a close-knit and highly educated family, Wilson learned early on that education is key. Her maternal grandmother and great aunts helped develop her competitive spirit with family spelling bees and geography contests. One great aunt defied convention by earning a college degree in the 1920s, a time when few women, and fewer black women, pursued advanced degrees. Her father and uncles all attended college as well. “There was never any question about college. It was where I was going,” she says.

A government major, she served on the College's Judiciary Board, and during her term a popular student was expelled. The decision was very unpopular, but it taught Wilson an important lesson: “A fair and just decision is not always a popular one,” she says.

Classes with government professors William Cibes and William Frasure further solidified her path to law school. Wilson was particularly close to the Cibes family, joining the professor and his wife for dinner and babysitting their daughter. When he was secretary of the Office of Policy and Management under Weicker, Cibes recommended Wilson for the position of workers' compensation commissioner.

“One of the most wonderful benefits of my Connecticut College experience was meeting quality persons of distinction who were committed to the rule of law, like Bill Cibes and Bill Frasure,” she says.

Mary Howard

Connecticut College Magazine

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