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Judge Eisenhauer named Drake Law Alumnus of the Year

June 5, 2014

The Honorable Larry Eisenhauer, LW'75, was honored as the Drake University Law School’s 2014 Alumnus of the Year during the annual Supreme Court Banquet in early April.

It is a custom of Drake Law to recognize a graduate whose professional career and dedication to the Law School and the University exemplify the qualities that we strive to instill in our graduates. Our 2014 Alumnus of the Year was born in Emporia, Kansas and graduated from Emporia State University in 1968. He served in the Army and then matriculated to the Drake University Law School, graduating in 1975.

Appointed a juvenile court referee in 1985, he was appointed to the District Court in 1993, and the Court of appeals in 2001. He was elected Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals in 2012, and now serves as a senior judge of that body. In 2005, our honoree worked as an International Judge for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.

Drake Law is grateful for the many alumni and friends who give back to the law school in various ways. Our many congratulations to Judge Larry Eisenhauer on being named the 2014 Drake Law School Alumnus of the Year.

To read more about the 2014 Supreme Court Celebrations and the many award winners, check out the Drake Law website.

Below is taken from the Spring issue of Blue Magazine.

"At Home in the World"
Careers built near Drake reach lives beyond borders.

Anyone who questions the breadth of opportunities that characterize a lifetime in Iowa should talk to Larry, lw’74, and Cynthia Eisenhauer, gr’76. Larry was admitted to Drake Law in 1970, and the couple moved to an early 20th century farmhouse in a suburb of Des Moines in 1975. It’s been their home ever since, though their careers have taken them around the world.

Larry Eisenhauer's 28-year judicial career culminated in a position as Chief Judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals. Cynthia Eisenhauer served as director in no fewer than four state organizations and as chief of staff to former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Their professional experiences have touched others beyond Iowa.

Q: Cynthia, you helped the City of New Orleans prepare its 2008–2010 budgets, while the city continued to recover from Hurricane Katrina. What experience did you carry with you from Des Moines that was valuable in the project?

A: After Katrina, revenues plummeted in New Orleans, and at least a third of the city staff was laid off. The mayor wanted a budgeting approach that started from scratch, identifying citizen priorities and making choices based on those priorities. Iowa has (thankfully) never experienced that level of devastation, but the Great Flood of 1993 caused considerable destruction. I was director of Iowa Workforce Development at that time—our offices were flooded, the city had a shortage of running water, and we had to establish makeshift offices to provide public services. The flood taught me about perseverance and flexibility. Those characteristics helped me encourage New Orleans city staff to have faith and creatively overcome adversity.

Q: Larry, you served a six-month term as an international judge for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. Which Iowa judicial experiences were valuable in your work abroad, and how did your time in Kosovo influence the way you think about and approach justice back home?

A: Presiding over any trial is an exercise in managing conflict with an even hand. There is no script, the unexpected often arises, and emotions run high. The only way to learn to navigate this tough terrain is through experience. My first trial in Kosovo was with defendants charged with human trafficking and rape. The first day in court, one of the victims appeared in the company of one of the defendant’s family members. Drawing on my Iowa trial experience, I quickly separated the victim from the defendant’s family, questioned her, and determined she was being coerced. Although the justice system in Kosovo was much different from ours, the experience reminded me of the universal nature of the human desire for justice. The atmosphere in a courtroom, the tension, and the need for confidence and faith in the integrity of the system are all the same.

Q: The scope of your careers is extraordinary. What do you talk about at the dinner table?

A: Current events, politics, popular culture, where we want to travel next, and the need to bring better balance to our lives by spending more time with friends and riding our bikes. Often we don't talk much because we are reading our respective books. (Larry prefers non-fiction history and anything by John LeCarre. Cynthia prefers historical fiction, legal thrillers, and anything by David McCullough.)