Robert McConnell ‘67 B.A., ‘70 J.D.

 

Which groups or activities were you most involved in at ASU? What did you gain from that involvement?
 I played basketball my freshman year under Coach Ned Wulk. It was a fabulous experience  being on the court with some of the best players in ASU history, including Art Becker, Dennis Dairman and Joe Caldwell, and establishing lifelong friendships.  But once I left the basketball program I gravitated toward student government, first in the residence hall, and then with ASASU, eventually being elected student body president.  This involvement too led to many wonderful relationships and friends both students and others such as ASU President Homer Durham, Vice President for Student Affairs George Hamm and the Memorial Union’s Trudy Thomas.
 
After I was elected student body president, I read an article about Arizona’s National Merit Scholars, and wondered why so many more were choosing  the U of A instead of ASU.  At that point I thought about how alums from all over unofficially scouted athletes for the ASU coaches and wondered why we couldn’t arrange the same type of recruiting network for National Merit Scholars and other outstanding high school students. My thought was to create a student honorary with outstanding students from all of the colleges, so we could match high school students with ASU students with the same academic interests and recruit them for ASU.  I drafted a charter for a student organization and spoke with Don Dotts, who was executive director of the ASU Alumni Association.  

Don went along with the idea, and I appointed my good friend (and now wife) Nadia Komarnyckyj (McConnell) as the first president. She’d been chairman of “senior day” at ASU before this so she had experience selling ASU to high schools students.  She took over the organization from there, including selecting the name Devils’ Advocates and recruiting the initial advisors Trudy Thomas and Professor Nick Salerno, and they were off and running.  I secured for the Advocates 10 prime tickets for every event in Grady Gammage so they could entertain students and parents, and by the end of the year, ASU had more incoming National Merit Scholars than the U of A.  I didn’t actually become a member of Devils’ Advocates, until I went to ASU for law school the next year as a member of its founding class.
 
How did your education at ASU prepare you for your current profession?
I originally signed up for commercial art, but after my first semester switched to political science because of my interest in politics. My favorite professors were in my law school program, including John Morris, who was one of the law school’s founding faculty, as well as  Dean Willard Pedrick, Richard Effland, Jonathan Rose and Bill Canby. They were good professors and wonderful people.  
 
I knew I wanted to be involved in public affairs when I was an undergraduate, and my involvement in student government, law school and my internship with U.S. Sen. Paul Fannin and working as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Rep. John J. Rhodes Jr. definitely prepared me for that. Since then, I’ve worked as an attorney in private practice and as part of a law firm, as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs during the Reagan Administration, as well as the head of CBS’s Washington, D.C., corporate office.
 
Tell us about your involvement with this year’s Golden Reunion, which is sponsored by the ASU Alumni Association.
I’m really looking forward to seeing people who I haven’t seen in years! I am looking forward to the various reunion activities and participating in Spring Commencement. More than anything else, I am looking forward to seeing friends and classmates from the Class of 1967.
 
What are three “can’t-miss” experiences every Sun Devil should experience?

  1. Attend shows and performances at ASU Gammage. The auditorium opened during my time at ASU, and I was astounded at what sorts of performances were available, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Pops!
  2. If you’re a student, consider playing an intramural sport. When I was here, I played a number of intramural sports and they were great experiences. Indeed, when I was student body president, I found out that ASU’s student run intramural program was the largest in the United States. We had visits from other major universities to see the size of our program and how it was operated. I believe that even today there are dozens of clubs and sports in the intramurals program. It’s a great way to spend your out-of-class time.
  3. Find ASU-related activities that YOU enjoy. Don’t wait until you’re a senior, or an alumnus/a, to explore what’s available!
Year of graduation: 
6770