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My Golden Memories: Robert McConnell

'I wanted everyone to know about ASU'

Robert and Nadia McConnell (seated) pose with current members of the Devils' Advocates student organization during the 50th Anniversary luncheon for the group held in April 2017.

May 03, 2017

Editor’s note: This story is one of a series of reflections — in their own words — from members of ASU’s Class of 1967, who will return to the university on May 8–9 for their Golden Reunion, a two-day event hosted by the ASU Alumni Association. Learn more about what’s happening at Golden Reunion here. Read more stories here.

I chose to attend ASU because I was bred to come here. My mother, aunt and uncle were all Sun Devils. The other half of the family attended the UofA, and although I was originally from California, we all came out each year for the Territorial Cup game, and I got caught up with the rivalry early on.

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. 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.

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 UofA instead of ASU. My thought was that we could 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 at the time.  

Don went along with the idea, and I appointed my good friend (and now wife) Nadia Komarnyckyj (McConnell) as the first president. She took over the organization from there, including selecting the name Devils’ Advocates. 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 UofA.  

I actually met my wife, Nadia, after only a couple of months on campus. I went out one night with my roommate and we ran into her, and my roommate knew her. When I started the Inter-Hall Council, I was put on her committee. Eventually, we became good friends, and all these years later, we still are.

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. 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.  

Since graduating from ASU College of Law’s inaugural class  in 1970, I’ve worked as an attorney in private practice and as part of a law firm. I also was appointed assistant attorney general in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs during the Reagan Administration, and served as the head of CBS’s Washington, D.C., corporate office.

I’m really looking forward to seeing people who I haven’t seen in years, as well as taking part in various reunion activities and participating in spring commencement. More than anything else, I am looking forward to seeing my friends and classmates from the Class of 1967.

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