Timothy F. Nixon, UW-Green Bay Class of 1987, is ranked as one of America’s top 25 attorneys in the field of financial restructuring and bankruptcy law.
In delivering the December 2011 commencement address at his alma mater, he demonstrated a way with words that serves him well both in the courtroom (he has represented clients before the U.S. Supreme Court) and in the classroom (he teaches law and management courses at UW-Green Bay.)
He began by sharing a news flash — “Harvard has just changed its slogan to “The UWGB of the East” — and mentioning a favorite quote: “Be bold… be bold again… always be bold.”
Nixon told the graduates that self-confidence is a valuable tool when you’re facing a difficult job market and struggling economy. He shared the story of his own experience decades ago as a young father and husband losing his job and health care: “There are times fear is natural… even healthy… but you have to overcome those fears. Be bold.”
He also recalled a time, during his pre-law years when he was a crew member aboard a Great Lakes freighter, where white-knuckle conditions put ship and crew at risk. You make the best decisions you can, live with the consequences and learn from any mistakes, he said.
Nixon drew the biggest laugh of the day when he followed up a bit of advice about relying on the support of friends and family with an anecdote involving humility.
He said he and his wife were out for a drive one day when they gassed up at a convenience store. His wife, Susan, recognized one of the employees who was emptying the trash. In fact, it was a former boyfriend and, what’s more, a one-time fiancé.
All work has value, Nixon reminded the graduates, but it’s a reality that society attaches higher status and pay to some jobs over others. That day at the gas station, he recalled, he couldn’t help but wonder aloud to his wife, “Life sure would have been different if you had married him.”
“That’s right,” she replied. “You’d be emptying the trash at the convenience store, and he’d be the successful attorney.”