Boca Raton, Florida – In the wake of the nation’s mourning for the late Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, Kevin Wagner, fondly recalls his personal encounter with the trailblazing legal icon nearly two decades ago. Wagner, a respected political science professor, considers his meeting with O’Connor as a cherished milestone in his career, an encounter that has bestowed upon him a “badge of pride ever since.”
Reflecting on the opportunity he had to meet O’Connor, Wagner revealed that it took place in Washington, D.C., during his tenure as a fellow of the Supreme Court Historical Society in the early 2000s. “I did get the opportunity, relatively briefly, when I served as a fellow of the Supreme Court Historical Society back in the early 2000s,” Wagner shared, highlighting the significance of the moment.
Accompanying his recollection, a photo captures the essence of the encounter, with Wagner and O’Connor standing side by side. The image portrays Florida Atlantic University’s political science professor, Kevin Wagner, amiably reminiscing about the day he had the privilege to meet the esteemed former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
During the meeting, Wagner seized the chance to share a bit about his background, having previously worked as a lawyer and transitioning into a professorial role. He distinctly remembers O’Connor’s judicial ruling at the time, which acknowledged and affirmed his transformation from lawyer to professor. “I still recall her judicial ruling at the time was that I was officially a reformed lawyer,” Wagner chuckled, demonstrating the lasting impact of their conversation.
Wagner also recalls O’Connor’s remarkable ability to exude an air of gravitas, leaving a lasting impression on him. When questioned by WPTV reporter Tory Dunnan about any lessons he had learned from their conversation, Wagner highlighted O’Connor’s extraordinary skill in quickly assessing and understanding people. “One of the things that always impressed me … is how quickly she was able to size me up and assess who I was, and that’s a gift of a judge,” Wagner expressed. “She very much knew who was standing in front of her, what to make out of them and judge who they were.”
Recognized for her pivotal role in a historic debate and ruling in 2000, O’Connor’s impact extended beyond the courtroom. Wagner acknowledged her involvement in notable cases, including the Bush vs. Gore ruling, emphasizing that judges, despite being viewed as political figures, possess multifaceted roles. He highlighted O’Connor’s exceptional talent for coalition building and collaborating with fellow justices, a quality that set her apart from her contemporaries.
As we bid farewell to the esteemed jurist, Sandra Day O’Connor, her legacy lives on through the memories and encounters she shared with individuals like Kevin Wagner, reminding us of her remarkable contributions to the legal landscape and her unparalleled ability to connect with those around her.