Chancellor Shields honored at University of Iowa College of Law

October 12, 2017
Chancellor Shields receives award

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Accolades are always special, however, when they come from someone’s alma mater they tend to carry a bit more weight. University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields was honored with the Alumni Achievement Award at the University of Iowa College of Law on Oct. 8. “It’s humbling really,” he said. “I started my professional life there; so much of my professional success is attributable to the lessons I learned there. The reality of it is, the law school probably did a whole lot more for me than I ever did for them.”

Shields’ childhood was anything but traditional. His first five years was spent at the Christ Child Home, a Catholic Orphanage in Des Moines, Iowa. He later lived at two foster homes, until moving into the YMCA Boys Home in Johnston, Iowa when he was 11 years old. At the age of 14 he was taken in by a foster family. He graduated from high school, earned a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa and then was accepted and enrolled at the University of Iowa College of Law.

While at Graceland, the Jack Braby family befriended him, and Jack’s wife suggested he attend law school. In retrospect, that decision was a good one. “She planted that seed, and I took it from there,” said Shields.

Once at the University of Iowa, Shields became engaged in what the law school had to offer. After earning his juris doctor in 1982, he was appointed the assistant to the director of admissions. He was later promoted to the assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid, where he worked until 1989. Subsequent positions included special assistant to the associate vice president of academic affairs and the assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid for the College of Law.

Following his work at the University of Iowa, Shields held positions at the University of Michigan Law School, the Duke University Law School, the Phoenix School of Law, the City College of New York–City University of New York and ultimately UW-Platteville.

Shields attributes his success to a mix of tenacity, coming from his days as a foster child to the helping hands of so many people who were there when he needed it most. “I had people around me who were interested in my professional development and growth,” he said.

As assistant dean of admissions at the University of Michigan Law School he was involved with the landmark 2003 Grutter vs. Bollinger case that ultimately ended up in the United States Supreme Court, which the school won. “The Michigan Law School won that case in some small way because of the lessons I learned at Iowa because of the way I was able to think about these issues and how to execute on them,” said Shields.

In 2015, Shields was named one of the top 150 University of Iowa College of Law alumni. “Whatever success I’ve had they’ve had a major role to play in that,” added Shields. “I can’t take all the credit for that.” 

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, Communications Specialist, Communications, 608-342-1194,


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