Ved Nanda vividly remembers the balmy afternoon in the fall of 1965 when he arrived in Denver from New Haven, Connecticut and saw the Rocky Mountains in the distance, forming a scene that reminded him of the Himalayas of India — his home. He had accepted the University of Denver Sturm College of Law’s job offer and was also intrigued by DU’s Graduate School of International Studies. Nanda had intended to stay in Colorado for just one year and then return to the East Coast or Canada to teach. However, life happened and his love of Colorado flourished. He’ll celebrate his 50th anniversary of teaching at the Sturm College of Law on February 25.
In the 1960s, the Ford Foundation promoted and funded the subject of international law in U.S. law schools. Dean Robert Yegge and the law faculty gave Nanda free reign to shape the new program, which became the International Legal Studies Program (ILSP) in 1972 with Nanda at its helm. Nanda credits all of the deans and his colleagues since Yegge’s time for their consistent support of the program. With only one international law course when Nanda started teaching, the law school now boasts one of the premier international law programs in the United States. It currently offers approximately 60 courses and supports the nationally-ranked Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, as well as a thriving International Law Society.
The International Legal Studies Program has been an unequivocal success: International and comparative law courses continue to attract large numbers of outstanding and enthusiastic students, with many having selected Denver Law because of its international law offerings; international law alumni all over the world have been recognized for their stellar accomplishments; the program has extensive outreach in the Colorado legal community; the program’s annual international law conference, known as the Leonard v.B. Sutton Colloquium, is the longest-running international law conference in the country, aside from the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law; and Professor Nanda’s own professional activities in the global international legal community bring higher visibility and distinction to the Sturm College of Law.
During his time at Yale Law School, Nanda was privileged to work with several international law luminaries, notably his advisor and mentor, Myres S. McDougal, a giant in the field, and Egon Schwelb, then-deputy director of the Human Rights Division in the U.N. Secretariat, who taught the first class anywhere in international human rights law. These experiences cemented in Nanda a commitment to advancing human rights in his own career. At that time, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the U.N. General Assembly in 1966, and the U.N. adopted the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, thus completing the International Bill of Rights. The timing was perfect for Nanda to launch a course in international human rights law – the second of its kind in the country – and, not long thereafter, an international human rights law clinic.
As the International Legal Studies Program grew in stature in international law, the University of Denver also progressed as a center for international education that included international programs abroad, faculty and student exchanges with several universities abroad, international externships, and international scholarships. When former DU Chancellor Dan Ritchie launched a bold initiative to internationalize the university, he selected Professor Nanda to head the newly created Office of Internationalization as vice provost. Nanda still continued to teach in the law school – which at the time was seven miles away from University Park on the Park Hill campus. This made for a wild commute, sometimes two or three times a day, as administration, meetings, and classes competed for the place of highest priority in his schedule. The Office of Internationalization succeeded in adding an international element to virtually all aspects of the university and attracted large numbers of highly qualified applicants, including international students, to the campus for undergraduate and graduate studies. The centerpiece of that effort was the Cherrington Global Scholars Program, which sent more than 75 percent of undergraduate juniors abroad through more than 100 programs. It remains a leader in the proportionate number of undergraduates that it sends overseas.
Professor Nanda has hosted numerous dignitaries over the years, including the Dalai Lama, the president and the vice president of the International Court of Justice, the legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State, two U.N. under-secretaries-general, and a large number of other human rights heroes, many of whom are Nanda’s personal friends. The annual Myres S. McDougal Distinguished Lecture, which honors outstanding international law scholars, was personally inaugurated by Professor McDougal. While these visits are important, the students, who are able to spend time with these major figures in international law, are the real beneficiaries.
As Denver has joined the ranks of international cities, the University of Denver and Professor Nanda have played a pivotal role. When asked what accomplishments he’s most proud of, Nanda does not mention his extensive record of scholarship — 25 books and more than 200 major law review articles and chapters — nor his leadership in national and international professional organizations. Instead, he focuses on the success of his students. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Minister of Iran Javad Zarif, former Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court Patricio Serna, and thousands of others attest to his influence and inspiration in their own lives and careers. In 2006, alumnus Doug Scrivner (now chair of the DU Board of Trustees) and his wife, Mary, made an extraordinary gift of $1 million to Denver Law to establish the Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law in honor of Nanda’s 40th year of teaching. This gift was further enriched by another $2 million from other alumni and friends, and alumni also have raised another million dollars for a Ved Nanda Professorship in International Law. It is no exaggeration to say that Nanda’s students become his friends.
And what does Nanda celebrate the most? His daughter Anjali’s graduation from the Sturm College of Law in 2012. She received her International MBA from the Daniels College of Business at the same time. He is also proud of her accomplishments as editor-in-chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy and for editing a festschrift in her father’s honor for the journal’s anniversary celebration.
Ved Nanda is deeply grateful for the priceless opportunity to share his love for international law with the students of the University of Denver and the Sturm College of Law for 50 years.
“There is plenty of very interesting and sophisticated international legal work going on in Denver. The program that Ved and the College of Law have built, along with the resources of the Nanda Center, helps us play at the level of our coastal colleagues. They also serve the important functions of convening and catalyzing the international legal community in Denver.”
Lucky Vidmar (J.D. ’03) — partner at Hogan & Lovells, former co-chair of the CBA International Law Section.
“In an increasingly globalized world, an understanding of how international law impacts business, politics and human rights is vital to any young lawyer’s success. The breadth of academic and professional experience that Professor Nanda and the other international law professors at Sturm share with students is unparalleled, and the tools I have gained are invaluable to my future career in international law.”
Jeremy Goldstein (J.D. ’16) — senior managing editor, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. D
You are invited to attend a special event in Professor Ved Nanda’s honor on February 25 at the Cable Center (University of Denver). For more information, visit https://goo.gl/TxizPL.