By Elizabeth Palmer ’92
Rosemary Mayers Collyer came to Trinity in the fall of 1964, having chosen, in her view, the best Catholic women’s college in the country at which to pursue her education. During her recent return to campus to be honored at Academic Convocation during Cap and Gown Weekend in September, she demonstrated her belief that she could make the same choice today, and for the same reason, and be just as happy and successful.
A woman of distinctive accomplishment herself, Judge Collyer let her enthusiasm for her own Trinity experience show in celebrating the accomplishments of the Class of 2004 and addressing them as the recipient of the Centennial Award for Alumnae Leadership.
“Value your time here, the things you learn, the people you meet,” she said. “Trinity is universal…you can take this experience anywhere.”
Collyer pursued a history degree at Trinity and planned a teaching career. After being accepted into the Ph.D. program at the University of Virginia, she deferred when her husband went into the military and the realities of the Vietnam War took precedence over career ambitions.
When the family moved to Denver, she worked in public relations and advertising as a writer, mostly for a group of psychologists who had developed programs to enhance business and personal interactions. They saw potential for Collyer in the law, but when one of them suggested she take the LSAT exam, she was initially resistant. Eventually, she took their advice to both take the exam and to apply to law schools.
Good advice, as it turns out. Collyer’s gifts for judicial wisdom emerged quickly and have fueled a distinguished career rich in public service.
Following graduation from the University of Denver College of Law in 1977 where she was a member of the Law Review, Collyer went to work. She was an attorney with the law firm of Sherman & Howard in Denver before moving into government service.
She was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan to serve as Chairman of the Federal Mine and Safety Health Review Commission (1981-1984), followed by the appointment to serve as General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (1984-1989). Both presidential appointments required confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
In 1989, Collyer joined one of Washington, D.C.’s largest law firms, Crowell & Moring, LLP, where as a senior partner she provided counseling and litigation services to clients in the labor and employment field, before being appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States District Court in January 2003.
Addressing the assembly at Academic Convocation at Trinity, Collyer identified the issues in her eyes most burdensome for today’s justice system, “Guns and drugs,” she said. “Stay away from guns and drugs.”
She advises Trinity students today to be flexible and open to new opportunities that may arise. For an interview with the Trinity Times in August of this year, Collyer wrote, “Don’t be too concerned if you are uncertain about a future career. You may have a series of jobs before you find your passion. But don’t stop at any old job. Jobs are real work and you will need to get personal satisfaction much more than a paycheck to keep you interested and really good at what you do. So search for that job you would find satisfying without pay, and then design a career from that.”
A confident speaker, she radiates authority without seeming authoritarian. It’s an almost parental quality that inspires trust. It is not difficult to imagine her up on the bench in her robes.
Then again, in her academic regalia at Convocation, it isn’t hard to see her as just another red class member, celebrating her class.