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Community Honors the Legacy of Ved Nanda

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Sturm College of Law

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woman standing at podium in front of slide show

Anjali Nanda delivers a eulogy for her father (behind her, a slide show displays a photo of Anjali with her parents, Ved and Katharine Nanda) on April 3, 2024, at the University of Denver.

Over 500 members of the legal and academic community, along with family, friends, former students and colleagues, gathered to celebrate the life of Ved Nanda on April 3 at the University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts, as well as in an online livestream of the event. Dr. Jeremy Haefner, chancellor of the University of Denver, welcomed the guests and recognized the impact that Nanda had on the university through nearly 60 years of service. Further institutional tributes were offered by Bruce Smith, dean of the Sturm College of Law, Doug Scrivner, JD’77, founding donor of the Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law, Ian Bird, JD’76, chair of the Nanda Center, and a video tribute from former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, BA’74, PhD’81, who was one of Nanda's students. 

In a deeply heartfelt eulogy, Anjali Nanda, BA'06, JD'11, MBA'12, daughter of Ved and Katharine Nanda, delivered a remembrance of her parents that was stirring and inspirational. Following her eulogy, remembrances were shared by friends and past students of Ved Nanda, including the Honorable Sid Brooks, Christopher Kip Hale, Rick Leach, Sai Patil and Stoney Cox. In their own way, each speaker shared the unique and indelible impact that Nanda made on their lives, moving the audience in turns to laughter and to tears.

Following the presentation, the community and family gathered in the Joy Burns Plaza of the Newman Center to share further memories, offer comfort to and reconnect with one another, and engage in Nanda’s signature call to action: world peace through wine and cheese.

The evening's program text, sharing many of Nanda's personal and professional accomplishments, follows below.

Ved P. Nanda (1934 - 2024)

Ved Prakash Nanda was born on November 20, 1934, in Gujranwala, of undivided India, the second youngest of nine children to Jagan Nath Nanda and Atur Kaur. Following his family’s harrowing migration to East Punjab in 1947 during the partition of India and Pakistan, Ved went on to study at Punjab University where he received a BA/MA in Math and Economics in 1952 at age 17. He later received a Bachelor of Law in 1955 and a Master of Law in 1958 from the University of Delhi, where he finished first in his class. During this time, he was elected President of the Delhi University Student Union and President of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an all-India student organization, which currently has more than five million members and is the world’s largest student organization.

Ved moved to Chicago in 1960 to attend Northwestern University where he earned his LLM, then to New Haven as a postgraduate fellow at Yale Law School. He then worked at the Legal Division of the United Nations in New York, where he fondly recalled sipping martinis in the Delegates’ Lounge — where all the real decision making took place.

Ved began his long tenure teaching at the University of Denver College of Law (now the Sturm College of Law) in 1965. He founded the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy in 1971, serving as its faculty advisor until 2018, and the International Legal Studies Program in 1972, serving as its director and director emeritus. He introduced the first international human rights law course at the law school and was the University’s Vice Provost of Internationalization from 1994 to 2008, during which he launched the Cherrington Global Scholars program after forging exchange agreements with 100 universities around the globe. Today, over 70 percent of DU undergraduates study abroad each year in over fifty countries, making DU second in the nation for percentage of students studying abroad. Ved earned the distinctions of John Evans Distinguished University Professor and Thompson G. Marsh Professor of Law. He taught his last class in November 2023 to students from the Sturm College of Law and Josef Korbel School of International Studies, marking nearly 58 continuous years of dedicated service to the University of Denver.

Ved met his wife, Katharine, at the International House, a club for international students at the University of Denver where, as program director, she invited him to deliver a human rights lecture. After a ten-year courtship, they married in December 1982 in New Delhi. Katharine earned her JD from DU in 1981 and a master’s degree in art history in 1999. Their daughter Anjali was born in 1984. She is also a Sturm College of Law graduate, an international law practitioner and practices immigration law in Denver. 

Ved’s desire to see and know the world led him to buy around-the-world flights during school breaks, visiting almost every country in the world. Ved was a devout Hindu, serving as Sanghchalak (President/Mentor) of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) USA, and a founding member of Sewa International USA, a volunteer organization providing disaster relief and community rehabilitation. He was also the first President of the Hindu Temple of Colorado, served as Chairman of the Hindu University of America, and was active in interfaith activities in Colorado and beyond. A leading expert in international law, Professor Nanda’s influence extended far beyond the classroom. He catalyzed change in the global legal landscape through work on international law, human rights law, environmental law, and many other areas and was instrumental in shaping international legal discourse. He was called upon to serve on innumerable panels of experts, as a rapporteur for the United Nations, and in 1984, he was one of twelve people who gathered in Sicily to draft the United Nations Convention Against Torture. He served in leadership positions in numerous international and national professional and community organizations, including the World Jurist Association, American Society of International Law, International Law Association, American Bar Association, United Nations Association-USA, Friends of India Society International, and countless more. He was the U.S. delegate to the World Federation of the United Nations Associations in Geneva and was on the governing council of the United Nations Association of the USA. Ved also served as Chair of the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies, Chair of the Academic Council at the Iliff School of Theology, and was Vice President and on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Interfaith Alliance, among many others. Locally, he was active in the Denver Rotary Club, Denver Council on Foreign Relations, the Cactus Club, University Club, and many more.

In 2006, a $1 million founding gift to the law school was made in Ved’s honor by his former student, Doug Scrivner (JD ‘77) and his wife Mary, along with other former students and friends, to launch the Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law. The Center began its programming in 2007, hosting programs for lawyers, students, and community participants as well as promoting scholarship in the field of international law. Alumni also established the Ved Nanda Professorship in International Law, Gil Porter (JD ’77) funded the Ved Nanda Endowed Graduate Scholarship Fund, and the Nandas established the Ved and Katharine Nanda Endowed Scholarship.

Ved’s commitment to justice and peace earned him recognition and awards from organizations worldwide including the American Bar Association International Law Section’s Louis B. Sohn Award for distinguished, long-standing contributions to the field of public international law, the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award for Peace Building from Soka Gakkai International and Morehouse College, Denver City and County’s Monte Pasco Civic Leadership Award, the American Branch of the International Law Association’s Charles Siegal Distinguished Service Award, and the Lifetime Best Teacher Award from the Indian Law Teachers Association. He was awarded the World Jurist Association’s Highest Order of Justice and its World Legal Scholar Award. He was also the recipient of the United Nations Association’s Human Rights Award and the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights Award. Perhaps his most distinguished honor came in 2018 when President Ram Nath Kovind presented Professor Nanda with the Padma Bhushan Award, one of the highest civilian honors awarded by the Government of India. He received Honorary Doctorates of Law from Soka University in Tokyo, Japan, and Bundelkhand University in Jhansi, India, was an Honorary Professor of Law at the University of Delhi, and was a Distinguished Visiting Professor, lecturer, and scholar at a number of universities in the U.S. and abroad.

For nearly sixty years, Ved wrote opinion pieces on human rights and international issues for The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. His last article in The Post, on the topic of climate change, was published on November 28, 2023. He authored, co-authored or edited more than 25 books and over 225 major law review articles and chapters. He credited many of his publications to his wife Katharine, who contributed both research and editing. Katharine was an essential part of Ved’s life and his many accomplishments. She was Ved’s partner and soulmate. She provided inspiration, support, and devotion to him and his legacy, which in many ways, is hers as well.

Beyond his globally recognized scholarly pursuits, Ved’s students were his life. He is celebrated as a mentor, philosopher, and guiding light, embodying qualities that inspire generations. He helped shape his students’ world views through his teaching of the rule of law, human rights, ethics, justice, compassion, and global citizenship. He passionately advocated for the rights of refugees and vulnerable populations, giving a voice to the voiceless, and used his expertise to raise awareness and influence policy changes to make the world a better place. Ved’s friendly, approachable, humble, and humorous demeanor, and his genuine interest in the well-being of others endeared him to all those he met. He was deeply admired, cherished, and loved by thousands of students, colleagues, friends, and of course, his family.

Ved Nanda passed away peacefully on January 1, 2024, in Denver with family and friends at his side. His wife, Katharine, died on August 28, 2023. They are survived by their daughter, Anjali, son-in-law, Terence, two beloved granddaughters, and extended family.

Watch Recording

Donations in Ved's honor can be made to the Ved and Katharine Nanda Endowed Scholarship Fund; the Ved Nanda Center for International Law and Policy; or the Ved Nanda International Law Center Endowment at the Sturm College of Law.

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