Richard Macías, a 1980 graduate, recently received Newman University’s 2023 Monsignor Leon A. McNeill Achievement Award.
“I’m humbled and not so sure I’m worthy because there are plenty of great candidates,” he said of being honored. “But I am so glad to receive the award and glad to have been a Newman student.”
This award, which is named for the first president of Sacred Heart Junior College (now Newman University), honors graduates who have achieved outstanding success in their personal lives and careers — people who have enriched the church spiritually, made contributions to society and demonstrated concern for others.
Macías and his brothers grew up in a service-minded household, and his older brother, Archie, continued a life of service when he attended Newman. When it came time for Macías himself to pick a college, Newman was a no-brainer.
“You got to see firsthand through the ASC sisters that it was service-oriented,” Macías said. “So everything we did, whatever our particular interests … it was with the idea that you are here for a bigger or greater purpose.”
After graduating from Newman with a degree in history, Macías attended law school and earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence.
For about four years in the early 1990s, Macías returned to Newman to teach a business law class. That experience led to some “aha” moments.
“Even though I went successfully through law school and passed the bar and so on, it really wasn’t until I was teaching the same material and presiding in small claims that it all came to me — oh, that’s what they meant by this,” he said.
Today, Macías is a judge for the 18th Judicial District Court. He has also served as a Sedgwick County Court judge and practiced law privately for more than 30 years, many of which he spent helping families in adoption matters.
As he hears cases in court, Macías keeps in mind that the individuals on trial have probably had some type of trauma in their lives. His goal is to get them the help they need in order to right their wrongs or get back on track.
He also strongly believes that hearing all sides of someone’s story is his most important job and helps him to make a fair decision. Macías keeps a framed screenshot from the 1939 film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” nearby as a reminder.
“I use that to remind me there’s always a different story and to remember that mercy because here’s somebody who’s hopeless and here’s the peasantry who are powerless,” he said. “In this particular job, many of us who are district court judges, we do have a lot of power, and you have to use that properly and wisely and tempered with mercy.”
“Everybody has a story to tell,” Macías added. “Everybody wants to be heard … and we should take the time to actually listen.”
For current students who want to make a difference in their fields, Macías shares some advice.
“Everything you do is a building block. Have that dream but enjoy the journey because that journey takes a long time to accomplish,” he said.
Macías said he owes a “debt of gratitude” to Newman University.
“I try to pay it not just monetarily, but through my actions. It’s love of God, love of neighbor, love of self. I can only hope that when all accounts are tallied, it can be said that all my debts are paid.”
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