UM to Present Distinguished Alumni Award to Billings Judge

October 08, 2015

MISSOULA — The University of Montana Alumni Association will present a 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award to Judge Sidney Thomas during an alumni gathering Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Billings.

The UM Networking Night event, part of the University’s “We Are Montana” Tour, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at Stockman Bank, 402 N. Broadway St. The event is open to all alumni and friends of UM and will be an opportunity to socialize with fellow Grizzlies, meet UM President Royce Engstrom and catch up on campus happenings. Beverages and appetizers will be provided.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is UMAA’s highest honor and is presented to recipients during Homecoming festivities each year. Thomas, who earned a law degree from UM in 1978, was unable to attend the Homecoming ceremony because of prior commitments.

Thomas is chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest judicial circuit in the country. The third Montanan to serve as chief judge in the history of the 9th Circuit, Thomas is the administrator for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. He was nominated to serve as a judge on the 9th Circuit by President Clinton in 1995 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1996.

In the past 20 years, Thomas has served as the en banc coordinator and capital case coordinator for the 9th Circuit. He also serves on the National Committee on Information Technology and chairs the Court of Appeals’ Committee on Automation and Technology. He was interviewed by President Obama and placed on the short list for the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.

Previously, Thomas practiced law with the firm of Moulton, Bellingham, Longo and Mather in Billings. For 15 years, he was an adjunct instructor in law at Rocky Mountain College, from which he received an honorary doctorate of law in 1998. He is married to Billings attorney and fellow UM law school graduate Martha Sheehy ’85, J.D. ’88.

This year’s other distinguished alumni are John Grotzinger, M.S. ’81, of San Marino, Calif.; Jennifer F. Isern ’89 of New Delhi, India; and Sheila M. Stearns ’68, M.A. ’69, Ed.D. ’83, of Missoula. They were honored at Homecoming.


Contact: Bill Johnston, president and CEO, UM Alumni Association, 406-243-5211,