OU Announces 2021 Honorary Degree Recipients

Receiving honorary degrees are:

  • Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe of Gulu, Uganda, a Catholic nun who has dedicated her life to improving the lives of women and girls in east Africa
  • William G. Paul of Oklahoma City, a towering leader in the law who, as president of the American Bar Association from 1999 to 2000, advocated for increased diversity in the legal profession

The university will confer the honorary degrees during the graduation ceremony honoring doctoral candidates, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, May 14, at The Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

“Through their decades of intrepid leadership and abundant benevolence to others, Bill Paul and Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe are an inspiration to the entire OU family,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “They have both dedicated their lives to making our world a better place – epitomizing our university’s life-changing purpose. They are truly deserving, and we are proud to bestow upon them the university’s highest honor.”

Since joining the Catholic Order of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at age 15, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe has dedicated her life to selflessly serving the people of Uganda, where she was born and raised. Much of her humanitarian efforts have concentrated on helping women and girls formerly held captive by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group led by warlord Joseph Kony.

In 2001, Nyirumbe was named director of St. Monica’s, a vocational school in Gulu, Uganda, that has provided refuge and hope to thousands of young women and girls, many of whom were abducted, raped and tortured by soldiers in Kony’s army and subsequently, have been shunned by their own villages after their traumatic experience. St. Monica’s provides them a safe haven, and the women and girls who stay there are taught to be self-reliant by learning practical skills, such as sewing clothes and growing food.

Nyirumbe and the Sacred Heart of Jesus congregation have expanded their work in the region, opening additional schools and a farm on the Ugandan border with South Sudan, which serves women, children and orphans fleeing from violence.

Her ties to Oklahoma began in 2002 when she met OU alumnus Reggie Whitten, who saw the impact of St. Monica’s firsthand and realized how the creative power of his alma mater could enhance Nyirumbe’s efforts. In the years since, a consistent stream of OU students, faculty and alumni have traveled to Uganda to help support St. Monica’s mission and to learn from the Ugandan people. In 2012, Nyirumbe and St. Monica’s partnered with the OU College of Medicine to establish yearly shadowing experiences for students at the Gulu University College of Medicine. Other colleges at OU followed, including Law, International Studies, Education, Engineering, Architecture and Business. In 2015, a cooperative learning partnership was formed between OU and St. Monica’s, bringing interdisciplinary teams of students and faculty to work alongside and learn from Ugandans several times each year.

Nyirumbe has received numerous awards, including the United Nations Impact Award, Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and has been named a CNN Hero. A book and a documentary film – both titled Sewing Hope – share her moving story. Rome Reports has described her as “the Mother Teresa of Africa.” Those who know her have been inspired by her humility, dedication to her school and the women of Uganda, and her unwavering hope for the future.

As a practicing lawyer for nearly 65 years, William G. Paul has earned a reputation as a highly respected and distinguished attorney, not only among his peers in the Oklahoma bar, but across the nation. His leadership in the legal profession is highlighted by his term as president of the American Bar Association from 1999-2000, in which he initiated programs to increase diversity in the legal system.

Paul has spent most of his career with the Oklahoma City firm Crowe & Dunlevy, where he currently serves as of counsel. Since first joining the firm in 1957, he has held a variety of positions over the years, including associate, partner, managing partner, shareholder and director. Paul has been lead counsel in some of the most significant trials in the state. His areas of practice encompass alternative dispute resolutions, commercial transactions, corporate governance and trusts, and estate law. From 1985-1995, he worked for Phillips Petroleum Co. as senior vice president and general counsel.

In addition to serving as ABA president, Paul’s leadership in the law has been demonstrated through his presidencies of the American Bar Endowment, the Oklahoma Bar Association, and the National Conference of Bar Association Presidents. He has served on a number of national ABA committees and as a member of numerous other local and national legal organizations.

Paul has been recognized for his professional achievements through many awards and honors, including induction into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and receiving the President’s Award and the Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Bar Association.

At OU, Paul has helped advance the mission of his alma mater through his support and investment of time, including his service as a trustee of the OU Foundation, life member and past president of the OU Alumni Association and as a board member for the College of Arts and Sciences, Bizzell Memorial Library, Business Dean’s Council and the College of Law. He has received the OU Regents’ Alumni Award and has been inducted into OU’s Seed Sower Society, which honors those whose total support of OU is $1 million or more.

Paul earned both his bachelor of arts and juris doctorate degrees from OU.

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