Commencement is the most important university ceremony. It recognizes and affirms
our students’ efforts as well as the work of our faculty, staff, family, and friends
who have supported our graduates throughout their academic journey. We are deeply
saddened that we cannot celebrate your outstanding achievements in-person with you
this year, but hope that the heartfelt video messages from our college dean’s, student
body president, alumni association president, our keynote speaker, and from me, let
you know that MSUB is proud of you and what you have achieved. You did it, graduates,
you finished your degree and you deserve all the celebration and congratulations in
the world. We look forward to seeing what you do next and know it will be something
MSU Billings Commencement Keynote Speaker: Chief Judge Thomas
Judge Sidney R. Thomas serves as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals
for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit includes all of the federal courts in California,
Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific
Islands. He was nominated by President Clinton to serve as a judge on the Court and
was confirmed by the United States Senate in early 1996. He maintains his primary
chambers in Billings, Montana.
Judge Thomas became Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit in December 2014. He serves
on the United States Judicial Conference, which is the national governing board for
the federal judiciary. In 2015, Chief Justice Roberts appointed him to serve on the Executive
Committee of the Conference and had previously appointed him to serve on the national
judicial Information Technology Committee. Chief Judge Thomas also serves as En Banc
and Capital Case Coordinator for the Ninth Circuit, Chair of the Ninth Circuit Judicial
Council, and Chair of the Court of Appeals Executive Committee.
In 2010, he was one of four finalists for a position as a Justice on the United States
Supreme Court to the seat vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens and was interviewed
by President Obama and Vice President Biden.
Chief Judge Thomas was born in Bozeman, Montana. He received his undergraduate education
at Montana State University and graduated with honors from the University of Montana
School of Law in 1978. From 1978 until 1996, he was engaged in the private practice
of law in Billings, specializing in complex commercial litigation. As a private practitioner,
he was selected as one of the "Best Lawyers in America" and was included from the
inception of the publication. He also maintained an “A V” Martindale-Hubbell rating.
For fifteen years, Chief Judge Thomas was an Adjunct Instructor in Law at Rocky Mountain
College, received the Outstanding Faculty Award, and also received an honorary doctorate
in law from Rocky Mountain College in 1998. He currently lives in Billings with his
wife, Martha Sheehy and their two sons.
MSU Billings Commencement Address: ASMSUB President Savannah Merritt
MSU Billings Commencement Address: Alumni Association President Hannah Olson