NWU Remembers Judge Warren Urbom
Judge Warren K. Urbom died on July 28, 2017. Nebraska Wesleyan University meant a lot to Warren Urbom, and Warren Urbom meant a lot to Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Warren Urbom graduated from NWU with highest distinction in 1950, and his wife, Joyce, graduated in 1951. To quote Warren, “She was everything any college campus could want: beautiful, intelligent, exuberant, a leader.” They were married in 1951 and deeply in love until Joyce’s death in 2010. Warren briefly attended seminary before entering the University of Michigan Law School where he began his lifetime commitment to the law as his profession.
Judge Urbom had this to say about his college years: “At Nebraska Wesleyan I learned to think more than I thought I could, to care more than I thought I should, and to give more than I knew I had.” It was his gift of giving back to Nebraska Wesleyan that has meant so much to NWU over the years.
Warren Urbom served as a Federal District Court Judge for 44 years. During those years he joined the NWU Board of Trustees and later the Board of Governors. His talent for giving sage advice was recognized and sought by several generations of NWU presidents and fellow Board chairs and governors. It was usually strong and direct. One former Board chair recalls asking his advice on whether to do something, to which Judge Urbom abruptly said, “Well, just do it.” The judge was known for ruling from the bench with the same kind of certainty and clarity.
The Judge’s love of the law was fully explored in his book, Called to Justice. There one finds Warren Urbom, the humanitarian, respectfully treating the Native Americans in the Wounded Knee Trials and struggling with the rule of law in his storied opinion. It is Judge Urbom following the U.S. Constitution. And yet, we see another side of Warren Urbom. As William Jay Riley of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said in the Foreword, “As a judge, he applied the law when required and common sense when discretion was appropriate.”
Judge Urbom was well appreciated and honored by NWU. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree and was a commencement speaker twice. In 1962 he received NWU’s Young Alumni Achievement Award and, in 1983, the Medal of Honor. Warren was an emeritus member of the Board of Governors at his death.
Nebraska Wesleyan University showed its appreciation to Warren Urbom by much more than awards and ceremony. He was given honor, respect and love as a truly great elder by his peers and other alumni. The sight of him in later years—his jaunty walk with his back erect and a smile on his face, impeccably dressed with a carefully knotted necktie, his pace steadied by a cane—is already missed.
Memorials in memory of Warren and Joyce Urbom may be directed to Nebraska Wesleyan University and designated to the Warren and Joyce Urbom Endowed Scholarship Fund.