Magazine Feature / People

Vigil receives lifetime achievement award

For Dan Vigil, a lifetime achievement award doesn’t mean he’s done achieving in this lifetime.

But the assistant dean and adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law notes that it’s nice to be remembered for decades of work, even if it all went by so fast.

Vigil, 60, was recognized with this year’s lifetime achievement award from the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association. The award honors those who have made significant contributions to the Hispanic community; recipients must be approved by an overwhelming majority of the association’s board.

“This is a nice marker for 25 years of work,” Vigil says. “But I’m not done yet. I don’t think I’ll ever retire. As long as I can continue to teach and be of service to DU, I’ll stay here.”

A government background

Vigil got his start in the army and later went on to work for the U.S. government before graduating from the University of Colorado School of Law and accepting a clerkship with a District Court judge, then going into private practice.

It was while he was working as a private trial lawyer that a former instructor from the law school took him to lunch and unexpectedly asked him to come to work at CU, Vigil remembers.

“I said no,” he says with a smile. “I wanted to stay in private practice … They were very persistent.”

Teaching rewards

After taking the job as an assistant dean for student affairs at CU Law, he says his love of teaching and his intense desire to help others through life and school took over. Teaching a class of law students is something Vigil says is always a thrill.

“It’s like going to trial in front of a very smart jury that has read everything you’re going to talk about,” he says.

He came to work at DU in 2003 and has no plans to leave. Teaching as an adjunct professor and working as assistant dean of student affairs, he says, is rewarding and challenging and affords him a chance to help students find their way along a difficult path.

From helping students through marital problems, offering comfort when a student experiences a death in the family, or guiding someone though tough financial times, Vigil says he’s seen it all.

“Anything that can happen to someone in the world can happen to students,” he says.

Joe Ramirez, president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, says support for Vigil’s selection for a lifetime achievement award was overwhelming. Letters of nomination even came in from the University of Colorado, and when the matter came up, nearly every member of the CHBA board had a story to tell about how Vigil helped them along the way.

“He’s a special man,” Ramirez says. “He touched a lot of lives.”

In his personal letter to Vigil congratulating him for the award, Ramirez says, “You are well loved by this organization, and we want you to know how much we appreciate the work you have done for the Hispanic legal community.”

Vigil accepted the award Jan. 26 at the CHBA annual banquet in Denver.

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