Marquette University Alumni Association Alumni National Awards Weekend
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Robert J. Berdan, Law ’75

Robert BerdanThough retired, Bob Berdan is not exactly the retiring type.

Since departing as general counsel and secretary of Northwestern Mutual in June 2008 and moving to Presque Isle, Wis., Bob would like to say his time mainly has been filled with fishing and sailing. But that’s not quite accurate.

What he actually has been doing is building the house in which he’ll maybe, someday, actually retire. And landscaping the yard, naturally. Oh, and organizing, teaching and coaching soccer at a local elementary school. Which presumably doesn’t leave much time for shuffleboard, Reader’s Digest and Yahtzee.

But then Bob has never been one to take the path of least resistance.

He graduated high school in 1964 and earned two degrees, with honors, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Next he took an honorable detour from his academic career, serving four years in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Ranger infantry officer, including a tour of duty in Vietnam.

After that, law school must have been piece of cake, though he did try to complicate things as much as possible by becoming a new father two months into his first semester.

Through it all, and through the career that followed, Bob managed to combine discipline and dedication with a relaxed and refreshingly irreverent outlook on things.

For example, he once joked: “In some ways, the practice of law for a general counsel is not unlike Wisconsin’s very own Lake Winnebago. It’s 30 miles long, but only 15 feet deep.”

Bob also discovered a real depth of purpose in the legal profession, as he did at Marquette.

“Marquette was instrumental in my life,” he says. “It provided me with an honorable profession, lifelong friendships and a moral grounding.”

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