From the Classroom to the Bench: The Honorable William C. Ramsey '97 Reflects on his UMass Career
“UMass Amherst is a very special place for me,” says Judge William C. Ramsey ’97, “I was able to grow academically and personally at UMass, and I look back at my college experience with tremendous happiness.”
Ramsey, who is now the Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review’s Boston Office, calls his college experience one of the most positive experiences of his life. “As a large university, UMass has so much to offer students,” he says. “The vast number of programs, tremendous faculty, and different course offerings allow every student an opportunity to chart his or her own course for success. The key is for each student to uncover these opportunities and to take full advantage of them.”
Personally, Ramsey found much of his early success in the classroom. “Courses like Sheldon Goldman's ‘Constitutional Law’ and ‘Civil Liberties’ and John Brigham's course on the U.S. Supreme Court allowed me to develop important analytical and research skills,” he says. “Without question, these Political Science courses enabled me to succeed in law school and later as a practicing attorney.”
Ramsey encourages students interested in law school to pursue a similar curriculum. “Take courses similar to what you should expect to take in law school to not only learn about studying case law, but to also see if you enjoy these types of courses before making the commitment to attend law school,” he says.
Ramsey, who attended Northeastern University School of Law for his JD and Babson College for his MBA after UMass, says law was always the perfect career for him: “I have been extremely fortunate to love every day of my career as an attorney and now as a judge.”
Indeed, Ramsey’s legal career – whether as a prosecutor in the JAG Corps, an Assistant District Attorney, or now a federal judge – has always been rewarding. And he attributes much of his professional enjoyment to embracing challenges. “I always volunteered to take on difficult cases as I saw them as an opportunity to learn and grow as a trial attorney,” he says. “The first case I ever tried was a complicated negligent homicide that lasted several weeks. I volunteered to take the case and spent weeks preparing for it. After that experience, I developed the confidence to try almost any case no matter what the issue.”
As Ramsey continued to volunteer for cases like that first homicide, he not only gained confidence, but quickly sharpened his litigation skills. “I was very fortunate to try a significant amount of cases as a young attorney,” he says. “By being in court every day and trying cases regularly, I became extremely comfortable in front of juries. This trial experience allowed me to pursue other opportunities in my career and has been invaluable to me as a judge.”
Yet it is important to remember that those opportunities to try cases did not simply happen. They were the result of consistent hard work.
As a student, Ramsey pushed himself with a demanding curriculum. In addition to Goldman and Brigham’s courses, Ramsey tackled a senior thesis. “My thesis project allowed me to develop skills that I later used in law school,” he remembers. He also pursued leadership positions in many student organizations – including President of the Political Science honors society Pi Sigma Alpha – in order to gain leadership experience.
“Whatever the situation, working hard and being positive helped me to succeed,” says Ramsey. “I have no doubt that one's work ethic and personality will allow an individual to standout in any work environment.”
With all his success, Ramsey has also been careful to give back. He has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the New England Center for Homeless Veterans and on the Board of the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides college scholarships to the children of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has supported local educational initiatives and served as a member of his town zoning and planning boards. “The key to maintaining balance is to find a cause that you’re passionate about and an organization that allows you to make a difference in the lives of others,” he says.
That is in part why Ramsey recently joined the Department’s Advisory Board. “I am now in a position professionally to help students currently enrolled in the program,” he says. “My experience at UMass allowed me to succeed personally and professionally, and I hope to help the department continue to grow and succeed!”
This isn't the first time Judge William Ramsey has made headlines. Check out this article for an older entry.