W&M Chancellor O'Connor to receive Medal of Freedom

  • Sandra Day O'ConnorRetired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor serves as just the 23rd Chancellor of the College of William & Mary. She is pictured here at Commencement in May of 2009.

    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

    Sandra Day O'Connor

William & Mary Chancellor and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

O’Connor was one of 16 recipients named Thursday by President Barack Obama. According to a White House press release, the medal is awarded to “individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” President Obama will present the awards Aug. 12, 2009

The first woman ever to sit on the Supreme Court, O’Connor was nominated in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and served as an associate justice on the nation’s highest court until 2006. Since her retirement, she has served as chancellor of William & Mary. In that role, she visits campus several times a year to speak to classes, meet with various College groups and participate in annual ceremonies such as Charter Day and Commencement. O’Connor was in Williamsburg in May to send off the Class of 2009.

Since her retirement from the court, O’Connor has stayed active in public service and often gives lectures on the subject. In 2006, she participated in the Iraq Study Group and serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center. She has also released a new children’s book, “Finding Susie, which is based on her childhood and about a young girl growing up on a ranch.

Among the other recipients of the Medal of Freedom is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the 2006 speaker at William & Mary’s commencement exercises.

“These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds,” President Obama said in the announcement of medal recipients. “Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we should all strive.”