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Zack, Grimes and MacKay to be honored at commencement

The University of Florida recognizes Distinguished Alumni as graduates who have excelled in his/her chosen field or have performed outstanding service for the university. It is gratifying to note that nearly 30 percent of all UF’s Distinguished Alumni honored since the inception of the program have been Levin College of Law graduates. We are extremely proud to honor and recognize three UF Law alumni with 2010 University of Florida Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Stephen N. Zack, 2010 UF Law Commencement Speaker

Stephen N. Zack When University of Florida Distinguished Alumnus Stephen N. Zack (JD 71) takes office as president of the American Bar Association this June, he won’t be the first Gator to hold the prestigious office, but his election will still be one for the record books.

Zack, an administrative partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, will be the first Hispanic-American president of the ABA in the organization’s 130-year history. Following his installation as ABA president, Zack will lead the organization’s 410,000 members and nearly $100 million budget, and he has already hit the ground running in promoting his agenda as ABA president to provide appropriate financial support of the judiciary and improving civic education.

Zack has a long history of leadership and achievement. During law school, he was an active member of the University of Florida student body and served as president of Florida Blue Key. In addition to the long list of professional leadership roles he has held in the ABA, The Florida Bar, his local bar association and in his community, Zack is also a founding member of the Cuban-American Bar Association and was the first Hispanic-American — and youngest — president of The Florida Bar. His career is marked by outstanding service to Florida’s citizens as general counsel to Gov. Bob Graham, as chair of the state’s Ethics Commission, as an appointee of Gov. Lawton Chiles to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, and, most historically, as trial counsel for Presidential Candidate Al Gore during Bush v. Gore.

In a career spanning nearly four decades, Zack has always been a tireless participant in and advocate for the rule of law. His passionate belief in the civic responsibility of those who are governed to participate in their governance is a cornerstone of his agenda as ABA president, as is his devotion to the judiciary and its role in guaranteeing the Constitutional rights of every citizen. Zack holds dear the responsibility of the legal profession to uphold the laws of the country — a devotion to the rule of law that his family’s experience fleeing Cuba and Fidel Castro’s repressive regime in 1961 helped hone.

“In 1961 the first indication of the loss of liberty in Cuba was the attacks on the judiciary. It went downhill from there,” Zack said. “All constitutions are only words unless there is a commitment by the citizens to accept and defend those rights.”

Stephen H. “Steve” Grimes

Stephen H. “Steve” Grimes Double Gator, Florida Supreme Court Justice-emeritus, and UF Distinguished Alumnus Stephen H. Grimes (JD 54) is a jurist known for his dedication to the law, to public service and for his work ethic, intellect, and personal integrity. At UF, Grimes was president of his social fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, served as editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review and was a member of Florida Blue Key, Phi Delta Phi legal honor society, and the Order of the Coif. Grimes served his country in the U.S. Navy between 1951 and 1953, and following his graduation from UF Law in 1954, he joined Holland & Knight, becoming head of the firm’s litigation department. He served as president of the Tenth Judicial Circuit Bar Association in 1966 and became a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1971. In 1973, Grimes was appointed to his first judicial position on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, where he served until 1987 and as chief judge from 1978 to 1980. Gov. Bob Martinez appointed Grimes to the Florida Supreme Court in 1987, and he served as chief justice of the court between 1994 and 1996. After his retirement from the court in 1996, Grimes returned to Holland & Knight as partner and the firm’s “Senior Statesman,” where he continues to mentor young lawyers. He has been recognized as a Florida Super Lawyer, and is among the “Best Lawyers in America” for white collar criminal defense, appellate law and commercial litigation.

Kenneth Hood “Buddy” MacKay Jr.

Kenneth Hood “Buddy” MacKay Jr. During his nearly 30-year life in public service, double Gator and UF Distinguished Alumnus Kenneth Hood “Buddy” MacKay Jr. (JD 61) has focused on improving the quality of life for Floridians, preserving and protecting Florida’s environment, and ensuring the fiscal responsibility of government. As a UF undergrad, MacKay was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame. He achieved the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force, and practiced law in Daytona Beach following his graduation from UF Law. In 1968, MacKay was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. He was subsequently elected to the Florida Senate in 1975, and later to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1983 to 1989. In 1988, MacKay ran for the U.S. Senate but lost in a very close race to Connie Mack III. In 1990, MacKay was elected lieutenant governor on the ticket headed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, and they served two terms. With term limits preventing Gov. Chiles from running again, MacKay ran for governor but lost the election to Jeb Bush. MacKay became the state’s 42nd governor, nonetheless, due to the tragic and untimely death of Gov. Chiles 23 days before the end of his term. Following his retirement from public office after his term as governor, MacKay continued to serve his country as a special envoy to the Americas, appointed by President Bill Clinton, between 1999 and 2001. He remains devoted to Florida, and, as a certified mediator, established a project in the 5th Judicial Circuit of Florida to use mediation to resolve child-protection dependency cases. The mediation program has now been adopted by 19 of Florida’s 20 circuits.