Oct 13, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterJoe Geraud's trip to the University of Wyoming this weekend marked his first visit to the campus in several years.
"And it's been a long time since I've gone to a Homecoming," he said last week from his home in Riverton. "I'll bet it's been 10 years."
He had good reason to go this year.
The retired law professor was selected to receive the 2013 UW Distinguished Alumni Award. He traveled to Laramie on Thursday to attend a reception and speak with faculty and students from the UW College of Law before participating in Homecoming activities over the weekend.
Along with three other award recipients, Geraud rode in the Homecoming parade on Saturday and was recognized at the Cowboys' football game against New Mexico.
"It'll be fun," Geraud said before the trip, adding, "I'm just really honored by the fact that I was selected. ... I had no idea it was coming."
This will be Geraud's second stint as a distinguished alumnus: He was selected for the honor through the UW College of Law in 2006.
Geraud graduated from the law college in 1950.
"I was surprised that they wanted to hear from me again," he said. "I thought maybe I was a little old for them to be picking me."
At 88, Geraud has been retired for more than a decade, but he dedicated most of his working life to the university, and Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite, who studied under Geraud, said he has had an impact on hundreds of attorneys in Wyoming and throughout the United States --especially in the field of natural resource law.
"His expertise in oil and gas, mining, public lands and property law contributed to the UW College of Law's reputation as one of the leading natural resources law schools in the region and the country," Kite said.
After graduating from UW's law college at the top of his class, Geraud returned to the school in 1955 as a faculty member, becoming a full professor in 1962.
In 1969, Geraud became the school's vice president for student affairs, but he returned to teaching full time in 1980.
Meanwhile, he was appointed as the assistant attorney general for the UW Board of Trustees in 1964, and eight years later he was named the university's legal counsel. Geraud said he also spent 23 years as the faculty representative for the UW athletic department, the Western Athletic Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
"I had to monitor all the (athletes') academic performances and so on ... in addition to all the other stuff I was doing," Geraud said.
"It was a busy time. ... I always had a challenge of some sort. It was enjoyable --that's what keeps it interesting."
Geraud's wife, Betty, recalled how hard-working her husband was during his time at UW. She said he would spend all day at the office then come home to be with the family from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
After "kid time," Betty said he would return to work until late into the evening.
"He'd come home at 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m.," Betty said. "It was his life. He was very involved in what he did. ... Anything he did he was going to do better than the next guy. That was his drive."
Geraud --whose father and mother had immigrated to the United States from France and Spain, respectively --was the first in his family to attend college, Betty said.
He graduated from Riverton High School in 1943 and served in the Navy during World War II before heading to Oregon State College, where the couple met. They were married the summer before Geraud started law school.
When the Korean War began, Geraud served as a law specialist for the Navy, spending two years in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and almost three years in San Francisco before starting work at UW.
He retired from the Navy with the rank of commander after 42 years of active and reserve service.
Back to Riverton
After he left UW and returned to Riverton, Geraud served as a member of the Central Wyoming College Foundation and was on the editorial board for the Southwestern Legal Foundation's Oil and Gas Reporter publication, among other volunteer endeavors.
He still serves on the local REACH Foundation board that focuses on senior housing issues in Riverton and Fremont County.
"That's the last involvement I have as an organization," Geraud said. "I decided it's time to read more books and relax."
The Gerauds have been spending their retirement years visiting children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the region.
The couple has three sons --one in Billings, Mont.; one in Meridian, Idaho; and another in Lakewood, Colo. Two of the three are UW alumni, and one married a UW alumna. Geraud said one of his granddaughters also went to UW.
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