“We don’t have a free and open society, one committed to fairness and the rule of law, without leaders who are devoted to public service and education. This, in short, defines the Honorable Dennis Graham,” shares Dr. John Straayer, Department of Political Science professor emeritus.
The Honorable Dennis Graham (B.A. Philosophy, ’68) has established an esteemed professional legacy focused on integrity and service that has impacted CSU students, alumni, and law professionals alike. Graham is the recipient of the 2018 Charles A. Lory Public Service Award, one of the highest honors bestowed upon Colorado State University alumni through the CSU Distinguished Alumni Awards.
Graham’s story embodies the liberal arts’ focus on meaningful engagement and reveals just what you can do with a degree in philosophy.
Graham started his educational journey at CSU, graduating in 1968 before going on to attend the Nebraska College of Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. However, his legal studies were interrupted in early 1969 by the Vietnam draft, where he served in Korea for the United States Army. He was honorably discharged in 1972 after receiving the Army Commendation Medal and remains a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
After discharge, Graham returned to the Nebraska College of Law, where he served as managing editor of the Law Review. He received a Juris Doctor degree in 1975 with Order of the Coif honors.
Graham started his legal career as a law clerk for the Hon. Robert McWilliams on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, followed by a very successful 27-year career as a civil litigation attorney focused on securities law and commercial transactions.
“Dennis handled securities cases and complex commercial cases. He excelled at his work and developed a sterling reputation for his skills and professionalism,” shares friend and colleague, Gene Lang (’75), Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP.
In 2002, Graham was appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals where he served until his retirement in 2018. In 2014, he was awarded the Denver Bar Association’s Judicial Excellence Award.
Beyond his service as a judge, he was deeply engaged in the legal community, serving as the former chair of the Colorado Judicial System Personnel Board, and presiding over the Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board for 26 years.
Among his public service activities was a focus on education. Graham was highly regarded as a tutor for young lawyers and presented Continuing Legal Education programs for other attorneys, perhaps none more memorable than one he presented during a spinning class for the attorneys (he is an avid cyclist).
“Dennis not only has held public-service positions and earned accolades for outstanding performance, he also has made time to educate, inspire, and tutor. His has been an extraordinary career of outstanding public service,” shares longtime friend and College of Liberal Arts dean emerita, Ann Gill.
He was a frequent speaker for legal education programs beyond Colorado, such as the American Conference Institute legal programs and participated in the DU Strum School of Law’s course in which students argued actual cases before a panel of three appellate judges. Graham was also one of three judges who moved appellate arguments in a case to Boulder’s Fairview High School so that students could see the legal appellate process in action.
Graham has also been a loyal Ram, dedicating his time and talent in support of his alma mater. His passion for education is evident through his interactions with students: serving as a guest speaker for courses in the Department of Political Science, visiting with the CSU Pre-Law Club, and serving as a panelist on the Department of Philosophy’s career panel.
Since its inception in 2008, Graham has served on the CSU Rams Juris Doctor Steering Committee, promoting alumni engagement and philanthropic support of CSU students through the group’s annual networking event. Before each Rams JD event, Graham gave a group of CSU students a personal tour of the Colorado Judicial Building. Unanimously nominated by his peers in 2018, Graham received the CSU Career Distinction in Law Award at the 10th Annual Rams JD Dinner.
Graham has taken the lessons learned in the CSU classroom and built upon his degree to establish a reputation for fairness and justice, a dedication to education, and a focus on supporting the next generation.
“Service to the collective good, support for a free, open and educated society—that is Judge Graham. He is a model of what we want to see in the Ram family,” says Straayer.