Professor and lawyer Richard Pildes recounts time as an ETHS Wildkit

Every year, ETHS honors alums who have made an impact on their communities, both while at ETHS and later in their lives. The Distinguished Alumni Award is given to members of different graduating classes, honoring their achievements and reflecting on the impact ETHS has had on their lives. This year, the award ceremony was held on Jan. 31, where seven alumni members were presented with the award. Evelyn Alexander, Class of 1954, Coleman Brown, Class of 1952 and Lenora Moragne, Class of 1950, were honored posthumously. Michael Arrington, Richard Pildes, Robin Rue Simmons and Ben Wolf received the award and spoke to community members and students about the impact ETHS has had on their careers and lives. The Evanstonian was privileged to speak to Arrington, Pildes, Simmons, and Wolf about their experiences receiving this distinguished award.

Among the few who received the 2021 ETHS Distinguished Alumni Award, Richard Pildes is an esteemed professor of law at New York University. A former law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, Pildes has a long list of achievements. He has been elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute in addition to being appointed by President Biden to the President’s Commision on the Supreme Court. 

During his time at ETHS,  Pildes was a member of the track team, basketball team and quiz bowl. Graduating ETHS in 1975, Pildes “found it an incredibly vibrant, challenging, and intellectual experience in both the sciences and humanities. The experience of being part of those sports teams was also a very significant part of my experience at Evanston,” Pildes said. 

Currently a professor of law at NYU School of Law, Pildes said that he was “a part of a very diverse community of students. It was a very enriching, healthy environment to go to school in. I think it continues to affect my desire to ensure that other people have similar experiences. It was a challenging and demanding environment that helped me get the best out of myself. I think it was a phenomenal public high school. There are so few like it in the country, with a phenomenal range of opportunities, whether it’s academic, sports, music, arts. There is such a high quality of teaching in a beautiful facility.”

As a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, Pildes recently received an opportunity to travel back to Evanston. 

“[The award] was very moving to me. It reminds me of where I came from, and it reminds of all the wonderful things I was exposed to many years ago. An award like this was an excuse to relive and reflect on my past. When I was back [in Evanston], I got to tour the school and saw a large photo by the gym of the state track team I was a part of. It brought back memories of competition with teammates and the life I was a part of,” Pildes stated.