Spring 2016

Ken Salazar, ’81

Salazar Honored with 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award

By Amy Spooner

Ken Salazar, ’81, received Michigan Law’s Distinguished Alumni Award at a special ceremony on March 18, as part of the Juan Luis Tienda Scholarship Banquet. Salazar delivered the keynote address at the annual banquet hosted by the Latino Law Students Association.

“Ken has been a dedicated public servant from the state level to the highest ranks of the federal government,” said Dean Mark West. “We are proud that the foundation for his career was built at Michigan, and it is our privilege to present him with Michigan Law’s highest alumni honor.”

Salazar, a first-generation college student, was raised on a ranch in southern Colorado. He went on to join President Obama’s cabinet as the U.S. secretary of the interior from 2009 to 2013, when he oversaw the exploration and development of conventional and renewable energy resources, led the response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and established 20 national parks and wildlife refuges.

Salazar began his career in private practice, where he specialized in water and environmental law. His first foray into public service was as chief legal counsel to Colorado Governor Roy Romer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He then served as Colorado’s attorney general before representing Colorado in the U.S. Senate from 2005 to 2009. There, he served on committees related to energy and natural resources, finance, agriculture, ethics, veterans affairs, and aging.

After leaving the Obama administration, Salazar joined WilmerHale LLP and opened the firm’s Denver office. He is a partner in the regulatory and government affairs department, and a member of the strategic response and counseling and environmental practices, as well as the energy and cleantech group.

Salazar delivered the Michigan Law Senior Day address in May 2013, in which he said, “I’ve been able to live the American dream in so many ways, and much of it started here at the Law School. As I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve never met a graduate of Michigan Law who hasn’t done some great things in her or his life, and I know the education I received here was an important part of my success.”

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni whose achievements exemplify the values and ethos of the Law School. Presented annually since 2011, the award highlights individuals who have made an exceptional impact on their profession, community, and/or Michigan Law.