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Return to the Fold
When VINCENT O'ROURKE JR. graduated from the College of the Holy Cross back in 1969, he hardly envisaged overseeing the legal affairs of his alma mater one day. But the 65-year-old attorney has now answered the call to be Holy Cross's general counsel.
"I never presumed this is where I would land," O'Rourke says. "But I feel fortunate that I was selected for the job."
College of the Holy Cross is a four-year coed liberal arts institution founded in the Jesuit tradition of the Catholic Church. Holy Cross, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, has about 2,900 students. It is ranked among the nation's leading four-year liberal arts colleges. Its illustrious alumni have included several high-ranking elected officials and also the Reverend Philip Berrigan, a leading peace activist of the 1960s.
O'Rourke has done work for the college in various capacities since 1981, when he joined the local firm of Bowditch & Dewey, and had served as acting general counsel for about five months prior to being named to the position full-time. He also served as secretary of the board of trustees from 1998 to 2000.
O'Rourke says he will see a change in his focus: "I expect to be handling more transactional work than litigation," he says, "but there will probably be something new every day." He looks forward to working in an academic setting and being around students in a friendly and supportive environment. "It's a Jesuit school, so there is also a mission of service to others," he says.
O'Rourke participated in some landmark cases surrounding higher education early in his career, including Bakke v. Regents of the University of California and Davis v. Southeastern Community College.
The South Orange, New Jersey, native majored in political science at Holy Cross, where his years of study briefly overlapped with those of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, although they did not know each other. He received his law degree in 1972 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif. He then clerked for Judge Irving Goldberg in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
After that, O'Rourke worked as a judge advocate in the U.S. Navy from 1973 to 1977, serving as a trial counsel with the First Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California, "defending Marines in court-martials," he says. He was also an instructor in military justice at the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island. "I didn't come from a military background, but it was a great experience," O'Rourke says. "There were top lawyers therea lot of lawyerswho chose to work there instead of fight in the Vietnam War."
From 1977 to 1981 O'Rourke worked in the appellate section of the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He then returned to Worcester to work at Bowditch & Dewey. He was chairman of the firm's litigation practice group from 1989 to 2010, then became the firm's general counsel. He is a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys and has lectured on education, litigation, and risk management issues.