Former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus to deliver Coe College commencement address

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or

2011-04-22 13:36:13 - General

Former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary Doctor of Law degree on Sunday, May 8, at 10 a.m. at Coe College.

Ternus was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1993 by Governor Terry Branstad, and was selected by members of the court to serve as chief justice in 2006. She is the first woman to serve as chief justice of Iowa’s highest court.

Iowa voters defeated Ternus and Associate Justices Michael Streit and David Baker in retention votes last November. The justices were targeted by a well-organized and well-financed campaign after they participated in the unanimous Varnum v. Brien decision striking down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage.

A native of Vinton who grew up on a farm in northern Benton County, Ternus received her bachelor’s degree with honors and high distinction from the University of Iowa. She earned her law degree with honors from Drake University, and served as editor-in-chief of the Drake Law Review.

Before joining the Iowa Supreme Court, Ternus worked in a private law practice in Des Moines. She is a former president of the Polk County Bar Association and was a member of the Board of Governors for the Iowa State Bar Association. Ternus currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Conference of Chief Justices, as well as several related committees. In 2009, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Ternus to the Judicial Conference Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction, where she is one of only four state supreme country justices serving on the committee.

Baccalaureate will be held on Saturday, May 7, beginning at 3 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium. The Baccalaureate speaker is William Stacy Johnson, the Arthur M. Adams Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. An ordained minister and an attorney, Johnson earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University, his law degree from Wake Forest University, and his Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education. Johnson is the author of several publications, a frequent speaker in churches, and has served as a member of the Presbyterian Church USA’s Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church.

Johnson will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree at commencement.

Degrees to be conferred at commencement

At Coe’s commencement, President James Phifer will confer Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees on more than 280 graduates.

The college will also confer honorary doctorates on Marsha Ternus and William Stacy Johnson.

Schedule of events

Saturday, May 7
10 a.m. - Academic Honors Convocation in Dows Theatre.
1 p.m.
- Nurses’ Pinning Ceremony in Cherry Auditorium of Peterson Hall.
1:30 p.m.
- Phi Beta Kappa initiates will be honored at an induction ceremony in the Perrine Gallery of Stewart Memorial Library.
3 p.m.
- Baccalaureate service in Sinclair Memorial Auditorium.

Sunday, May 8
10 a.m. - Graduates will ring the Victory Bell in front of Eby Fieldhouse and then proceed across campus, escorted by the faculty, for the start of commencement exercises on the Stewart Memorial Library lawn. Graduates will be honored at an outdoor reception following commencement. In case of inclement weather, the commencement ceremony will be held in Eby Fieldhouse.

For more information on graduation weekend events, contact the Coe Office of Marketing and Public Relations at (319) 399-8581 or go to