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EIW 2012 

Bickner, Kearse, and White Named Distinguished Alumni for 2012

By Rebecca Freligh
Sept. 10, 2012

The three recipients of Michigan Law's 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award have achieved eminent careers in business, the judiciary, and academia. The awardees are Bruce P. Bickner, '68; the Honorable Amalya L. Kearse, '62; and James J. White, '62, Michigan's Robert A. Sullivan Professor of Law.

"We are delighted to honor such remarkable alumni as the 2012 recipients of this prestigious award," said Dean Evan Caminker. "All have made an important difference in their fields and to the Law School. All represent the best of Michigan Law."

The dean presented the awards at a ceremony on September 7 during the weekend celebrating the dedication of South Hall.

Bickner, of Sycamore, Illinois, held various executive positions at DeKalb Corporation from 1975–1998, became chair and chief executive officer of DeKalb Genetics Corporation in 1985, oversaw the sale of the company to Monsanto Corporation in 1998, and served as executive vice president of Monsanto from 1998–2002. He currently is an independent business consultant and director of several companies. Following a federal clerkship, Bickner practiced from 1970–1975 with Sidley & Austin, where he was a partner. Bickner serves on President Mary Sue Coleman's Advisory Group and Dean Caminker's Advisory Council. He chairs the Law School's Development and Alumni Relations Committee and is the former chair of the Law School's Campaign Steering Committee during its successful Michigan Difference campaign.

Kearse, of New York City, was named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1979, the first woman and second African-American judge to be appointed to the Second Circuit bench after Justice Thurgood Marshall. She has served the appeals court on senior status since 2002. Kearse began her career as an associate attorney with Hughes Hubbard & Reid in New York in 1962. In 1969, the firm named her a partner, the first woman and the first African-American lawyer to achieve that status. She continued in practice with Hughes Hubbard until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter named her to the federal bench. Kearse was the first woman to be elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers.

White, of Ann Arbor, is one of the most highly regarded teachers and scholars in the Law School's history. He has written on many aspects of commercial law: his book Uniform Commercial Code (written with Summers and Hillman) is the most frequently cited and widely used treatise on the subject. White also is the author of several casebooks on commercial, bankruptcy, and contracts law. He has served as the reporter for the Revision of Article 5 of the Uniform Commercial Code and is a commissioner on uniform laws from Michigan. He practiced privately in Los Angeles before coming to the Michigan faculty in 1964. White served as the Law School's associate dean from 1978–1981. He received the Law School's L. Hart Wright Award for Teaching, and the Homer Kripke Achievement Award given by the American College of Commercial Finance Lawyers.

To submit a nomination for the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award, please visit

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