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Bill Pollard III '65 Honored with Backer Award

The Honorable William B. Pollard III '65 was recognized on April 20, 2023 with the Backer Award. The highest honor granted by SLUH, the Backer Award recognizes extraordinary alumni who have fulfilled the Jesuit Catholic mission of the school by serving "above and beyond" in their communities, professions and their church.

Judge Pollard grew up in North St. Louis in St. Engelbert parish. After graduating from SLUH he attended Washington University and then earned a law degree and MBA from Columbia University. A twice recognized “New York Super Lawyer,” Bill developed expertise in national security and in fighting organized crime as a U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. For several years he was the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. 

In 1992, he received the prestigious Chief Postal Inspector’s Award for determining how drug cartels were using the Postal Service to smuggle millions of dollars, and for prosecuting those involved.

Later in his career Pollard was appointed by President Obama as a Judge on the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review. He oversaw appeals cases from trials held at the naval station at Guantanamo Bay where a number of people are alleged to have committed terrorist acts against the U.S. 

A patriot, a decorated civil servant, and a Catholic, Judge Pollard is grateful for the support and encouragement of the Jesuits and SLUH faculty who helped him to grow as a man of faith and a Man for Others.

Following is an article from the U. HIGHlights archive featuring Pollard.

Indisputable Excellence

When William B. Pollard, III ’65 was a student at St. Louis U. High, he enjoyed participating on the debate team. During one particular debate, which focused on the Cold War, teams were charged with defending first- and second-strike missile attacks.

“I said that there’s no such thing as a ‘second-strike missile,’” Pollard recalls. “It’s simply a first-strike missile shot second.”

Throughout Pollard’s distinguished career in law, he has applied this same out-of-the-box thinking and strategizing to settle disputes and bring about resolution.

After earning his A.B. at Washington University in St. Louis and a joint J.D. and M.B.A. from Columbia University, Pollard began his legal career at Paul Weiss Rifkin Wharton & Garrison in New York City, where he worked from 1974 until 1981. From 1981 to 1993, Pollard was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, serving as the Deputy Chief in the Criminal Division of that office from 1988 to 1993.

“Public service has always been important over the course of my life,” he says. “It been a wonderful opportunity and stems from the spirit of the Church.”

Pollard is largely retired, but continues to serve Of Counsel at Duane Morris, LLC, a Philadelphia firm with offices in New York and beyond.

On August 30, 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Pollard a judge on the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, following his confirmation by the U.S. Senate.  He is one of only two civilian judges on the court (the others are military appellate judges). The U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, which was created by the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006 and reconstituted by the MCA of 2009, hears appeals from the military commission trials held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay involving alleged crimes by unlawful enemy combatants. Among the defendants currently being prosecuted are those who are alleged to have been involved in the 9/11 attack on the United States and the attack on the USS Cole.

In addition to being individually recognized and appointed by the President of the United States, Pollard has earned the Postal Inspection Service’s highest award for prosecuting defendants working for the Medellin and Cali drug cartels who used the Postal Service to smuggle millions of drug dollars to South America. He has also been recognized by the legal industry for his work in various disputes, including being named a “New York Super Lawyer” for his professional excellence by a leading trade publication.

Amid all of his success and achievement, however, Pollard prefers to focus on what motivates him in his profession.

“Intellectual curiosity is what really moves me,” says Pollard. “Every dispute gives me an opportunity to learn and solve a problem.”

He says he learned how to think critically in the hallowed halls of St. Louis U. High.

“The Jesuit education at SLUH was a very important part of my development and provided a great foundation for life,” says Pollard. “I learned a lot both inside and outside the classroom. The teachers, particularly the Jesuits, instilled intellectual rigor and curiosity in us, and they provided lifelong lessons.

Pollard as a student at SLUH.

“Fr. John Doyle was a very rigorous teacher. He challenged us to think critically and he would tell us not to accept what he or anyone else simply said. Rather, he urged us to question the basis for what we were told. His point was that unless he or anyone else could defend what he or she said, we should not blindly accept what we were told. That was one of the most important lessons in life that I learned. Unfortunately, Fr. Doyle died too soon, the year after I graduated. I went to see him in the hospital when he was ill, and am grateful that we had time for one last talk.”

Now, just as Pollard learned from Fr. Doyle, he is paying it forward. He appreciates the opportunities that he has had over the years to mentor students and young lawyers. Recently, Pollard received a note from a lawyer who he helped train as a federal prosecutor, thanking him for lessons taught and learned many years ago that had served him well in life.

“Mentoring people,” Pollard says, “has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life.”

Giving back has, indeed, been a hallmark of Pollard’s life. He greatly values the impact of education and has helped qualified young men from poorer parishes to attend the U. High through his own generosity. In 2002, Pollard and his wife, Renée, started the Helen Proctor Pollard and William B. Pollard, Jr. Endowed Scholarship in honor of his parents, who were educators, to keep SLUH affordable for needy families.

Pollard’s generosity is matched by the selflessness in which he views his life’s work. In the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, Pollard sums up how he continues to use his own gifts and talents by saying, “It’s an opportunity to do good for others.”

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