Gerald L. Bepko, Class of 1965
Former chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
After graduating from Chicago-Kent in 1965, Gerald Bepko practiced law in Chicago and was a special agent for the Federal Bureau of investigation before joining the Chicago-Kent faculty as an Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for Criminal Justice. After stints at Yale Law School and Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, he was appointed Chancellor of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Vice President of Indiana University in 1986. As Chancellor, he oversaw the construction of more than 20 new buildings, a fundraising campaign which produced more than one billion dollars, and the launch of IU Health, which is ranked in the top one percent in the country. Now retired, he serves on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and is involved in a variety of charitable activities.
Who was your favorite professor at Chicago-Kent? What was your favorite class?
My favorite professor was Ralph Brill, who wasn’t very much older than I was when I met him in my first year of law school. His youthful spirit and playful approach to our work eliminated any remaining sense of drudgery in the study of law. At the same time, he was very serious about challenging students to strive for excellence. About 50 years after Ralph called on me to recite on all 5 cases to be considered in a particular class session, I was honored to speak at the celebration of Ralph's 50 years of teaching. Because of the enormously positive impact Ralph had on me, and the consummate respect I have for him, I was just as nervous making remarks about his profoundly important life as a teacher as I as in that class 50 years earlier when he pressed me into reciting on all 5 cases.
Who is your favorite US Supreme Court Justice (living or deceased)?
Chief Justice Earl Warren, who was an excellent leader. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, his life was spent in politics in California, where in an extraordinary feat of political leadership, he was the nominee for Governor of both the Democrat and Republican parties. He was named Chief Justice in 1953 and led the Court for more than 15 years- a period during which many controversial issues were resolved including the “white hot” issue of school desegregation. This very controversial case, known in popular terms as Brown v. Board of Education, was decided by a unanimous court, but only after an extended period of internal discussion on the Court, led by Warren. Some of the Justices were from Southern states and it was very important for the institution of the court to not have a regional or political division. Warren led the court to unanimity which was tied to the speed with which the Court’s decision would be implemented. We have too few leaders today who could win the nomination of both parties in a race for Governor, or bring the Supreme Court to decide the crucial issues of the day with unanimity, or even see the long term value of being united.
What would people find most surprising about you?
People would find most surprising that I was an FBI Agent for nearly 4 years, serving my first year in Mississippi at the peak of civil rights activity and the enforcement of new laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For the following 3 years I served in New Jersey and New York where I was nearly killed on an FBI surveillance.
What does it mean to be one of Chicago-Kent’s 125 Alumni of Distinction?
It is a particular point of pride for me to be in the 125 Alumni of Distinction. Studying at Chicago-Kent made all the difference to me. It took me from a mediocre set of aspirations and modest preparation, to places and honors I would never have dreamed of achieving.
What advice would you give to young attorneys just starting out today?
My advice to young attorneys would be to find roles that bring meaning and adventure into their lives. They should try to find things they like to do and then they should do those things very, very well with integrity and compassion. If you follow such a vision, it’s likely that you’ll gain fulfillment in any number of careers that can be built upon the study of law.