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When Beth Walker ’87 road-tripped with fellow Hillsdale stu­dents to Wash­ington, D.C., one spring break, she had a blast touring the city and getting an insider tour of the U.S. Supreme Court — but she didn’t realize the trip was a “preview” of her future, as she calls it now.

Designed by the same architect, the U.S. Supreme Court courtroom and that of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Vir­ginia resemble each other, Walker said. Since her election in 2016, Walker now takes office in the latter building as a justice on the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court.

“Of course, I had no idea what I would do later,” Walker said of her time in D.C. on spring break. (She did, however, know she wanted to go to law school since 7th grade.)

A northern-Ohio native, Walker’s ties to Hillsdale pre­ceded her birth; her parents, John and Ronda Deer, were Hillsdale alumni and have served on the alumni board (John, a Hillsdale football player, grad­uated in 1958, Ronda in 1960). When schol­ar­ships came through, Walker decided to attend her parents’ alma mater.

At Hillsdale, Walker studied political science and English, a double major that forced her to make a decision about what direction she’d take for her career. She opted for pol­itics, but her English training never left her. At Walker’s swearing-in, one of the speakers com­pli­mented her legal writing for its excep­tional clarity, remem­bered Eliz­abeth Spalding ’88, a close friend of Walker.

An ardently-involved student — she was class pres­ident, a member of Chi Omega sorority, helped start the student ambas­sador program, and wrote a weekly column for The Col­legian — Walker said her time at Hillsdale helped pave the way for her career, and not just by teaching her how to write and argue.

“I had a lot of lead­ership oppor­tu­nities at Hillsdale, and that’s the kind of thing that makes you see yourself as a leader later,” she said.

From Hillsdale, Walker set off to fulfill her seventh-grade dream of going to law school. She attended Ohio State Uni­versity, where she put her writing skills to use as an editor for the Ohio State Law Journal.

After grad­u­ating from OSU in 1990, Walker moved to West Vir­ginia to work for 22 years at Bowles Rice as a labor and employment lawyer. She then worked for several years as an in-house lawyer for the West Vir­ginia United Health System.

In 2008, Walker was talked into running for West Vir­ginia Supreme Court Justice ­— and lost the par­tisan election by 0.6 percent. In 2016, she ran again, this time in a non­par­tisan election (“I always thought that’s the way judges should be elected,” Walker said). She won by 18 per­centage points over the next can­didate.

“I went from a very close loss to a very big win, so that was exciting,” she said.

As a justice for more than a year now, Walker has taken advantage of the oppor­tunity to serve the public, and she’s pas­sionate about trans­parency.

“We really think it’s important for people to learn about what courts do and to see the judges are real people,” she said. Toward that end, Walker is active on Twitter, tweeting every­thing from her thoughts on legal matters and legal news to her March Madness bracket.

Evident in Walker’s tweets — and her lively con­ver­sation — is a mix of steadiness and humor that Spalding said endeared Walker to everyone on Hillsdale’s campus.

“She would lift people up and make them laugh in a good way,” Spalding said, recalling happy times with Walker in the dorm room and the Col­legian office. Walker had “the kind of tem­perament — filled with patience, delib­er­ation, and insight — that one needs to be a great judge” even as an under­graduate, she added.

Director of Career Ser­vices Joanna Wisely, a friend of Walker’s parents who’s known Walker since her high school years, agreed that Walker bal­anced ambition with light­heart­edness.

“I would describe her as ded­i­cated and deter­mined and with a great sense of humor,” Wiseley said. “She was the perfect can­didate [for supreme court justice].”

Walker is “the exemplar of a first-rate Hillsdale student,” Spalding said, noting that Walker’s love for con­sti­tu­tional law classes and attention to detail in her Col­legian work sig­naled her aptitude for a law career.

“Beth is a Hillsdale graduate through and through and has carried on the best tra­di­tions of Hillsdale,” Spalding added.

As she’s carried on Hillsdale’s tra­dition throughout her career, Walker has brought some Hillsdale with her. She served on the alumni board until she became a justice. Matthew Spalding, Asso­ciate Vice Pres­ident and Dean of Edu­ca­tional Pro­grams and Eliz­abeth Spalding’s husband, delivered a speech at her swearing-in. And Walker even has hung a copy of Pro­fessor of Art Sam Knecht’s painting of the U.S. Constitution’s signing over her desk.

“I have a little bit of Hillsdale in my office,” she said.

There aren’t many Hillsdale alumni in West Vir­ginia, Walker acknowl­edged. But to her, it’s always a delight to find a fellow Hillsdale grad.

“I love wearing a Hillsdale sweat­shirt when I travel, because I always run into all kinds of people,” she laughed. “It’s a lot of fun.”