October 2019 Alum of the Month: Andrew W. Roraback '78
The Hotchkiss School | Andrew Roraback '78

Andrew W. Roraback '78 is a Connecticut Superior Court Judge, currently sitting in the Civil Division of the Waterbury Judicial District. He has occupied this post since 2013, after having been unanimously confirmed by the State's General Assembly. Roraback, a Republican, was nominated to this position by then-Governor Dannel Malloy. Prior to becoming a judge, Roraback served three terms in the CT House of Representatives, beginning in 1995, and six terms in the CT State Senate, beginning in 2001. In his 18 years as a legislator, he never missed a vote, with 8,468 consecutive votes cast, earning him the nickname "the Cal Ripken of the Senate." He was the only one of 187 Connecticut legislators who could claim this record. Roraback developed a reputation from people in both the Republican and Democratic parties as a man of integrity and honesty, who was eager to work with individuals from both sides of the aisle in the pursuit of sound policy making.

Eleven members of the Roraback family have graduated from Hotchkiss between 1951 and 2011, making it a true family school. Their journey to Hotchkiss really began in New Haven, CT, long before any of them were born. George Van Santvoord, Hotchkiss Class of 1908, (who would later become the fourth headmaster of Hotchkiss), was teaching English at Yale during the 1919-1920 school year. One of his students, Charles P. Roraback, Andrew's grandfather, was so taken with Van Santvoord, that he later vowed that if he had a son, he would send that son to Hotchkiss. Charlie Roraback '51, Andrew's father, was that son. "George Van Santvoord passed away in the winter of my prep year. In another twist of fate, his great-nephew, Rhys Van Santvoord Bowen '78, was in my prep English class taught by the late and legendary, Robert Hawkins, who brought news of Van Santvoord's passing to our class. I feel a certain affinity with George Van Santvoord. After he left Hotchkiss, he went on to serve for a decade in both the Vermont State House and State Senate, heeding a call to public service. Public service has figured prominently in my life, and I know those Hotchkiss values that were championed by Van Santvoord have contributed to any success I have enjoyed." Roraback was not the first in his family to be drawn to politics, as another family member, J. Henry Roraback, was a Connecticut State Republican Chairman from 1912 to 1937, and among the state's most powerful leaders of that time.

Roraback had not yet decided on law while at Hotchkiss, and he went on to Yale College, where he received his Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in 1983. Soon thereafter his career trajectory began to take shape, as he chose to follow the path of three earlier generations of Litchfield County Rorabacks and to become the 11th member of his family to pass the Connecticut bar. He received his legal education at the University of Virginia Law School, graduating in 1987. He first practiced with the law firm of Wiggin and Dana in New Haven before returning to Torrington to join his father, brother Chip '76, and sister Margaret '79 at the family law firm of Roraback and Roraback, which was founded in 1883 by his great-grandfather.

Roraback's connection to Hotchkiss was strengthened by his representation of the citizens of Salisbury during all of his years in the legislature. "Representing 15 communities in Northwest Connecticut exposed me to a large measure of socioeconomic diversity and public policy challenges." In the State Senate, Roraback served as the ranking member of the Finance Committee. This role provided him with a unique opportunity to help shape tax policy for the State. "As a Senator, one has a greater opportunity to influence legislation. My Hotchkiss classmate, Scott Frantz, was also serving as a State Senator during much of my time in Hartford. We were very proud to say that the Hotchkiss Class of 1978 made up more than five percent of the Connecticut State Senate!" 

While serving in the Senate, Roraback was one of 24 young political leaders from across the country chosen by the Aspen Institute to participate in the Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership. Those selected for this program, 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans, met on five occasions over two years to develop leadership skills. They also travelled together to China, India, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan to learn about the intricacies of domestic politics in those countries as well as America's foreign policy interests. Among Andrew's classmates in this fellowship were Senator Kamala Harris, who was then the District Attorney of San Francisco, and now-Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, who was then serving as a city councilman. "I feel blessed to have been given the chance to learn so much under the auspices of this fellowship. It was an eye-opening and memorable fellowship on so many levels and enabled me to experience things I would never have otherwise had the chance to experience."

While serving as a legislator, Roraback was recognized by many organizations for his work on environmental issues, meeting the needs of individuals with psychiatric disabilities, protecting victims of domestic violence, and advocating for the needs of small towns in Connecticut. When he left the Senate, Minority Leader John McKinney, said "Roraback, whose family has deep roots in western Connecticut, brings 'a Litchfield County sensibility with him to the state Senate.'

Roraback has also actively volunteered his time in the Northwest Corner community. He has served on the Board of Directors of Torrington Affordable Housing, Inc., Torrington Child Care Center, Inc., and the Yale Club of Northwestern Connecticut. He is also a past president of the Litchfield County University Club. In recent years, Roraback has worked with the Litchfield Historical Society to increase public awareness of the rich history of America's first law school. The Tapping Reeve Law School is owned by the Historical Society and is located in Litchfield, where Roraback now lives with his wife, Kara Dowling, and their 10-year-old son, Andrew Kevin.

Roraback's 18 years in the legislature have provided him with a solid foundation for his current work. "As a judge, I often now see how legislation I had a hand in crafting plays out in real life. In addition, much of my current work centers on trying to find common ground among parties as they struggle to resolve their disputes. While I do preside over a good number of trials, I find my most satisfying work to be leading parties in conflict to mediated settlements, and my work as a legislator has given me many skills that are helpful in this process."

In reflection, Roraback says, "When I was in Connecticut politics, there was a refreshing absence of animus and acrimony, and I enjoyed working with others from across the political spectrum. Politics was for me about a constructive competition of ideas in the furtherance of the common good. Just as my focus as an elected official was on building trust with the public I served, so too, as a judge, I aspire to bolster public confidence in the work of the judicial branch of government."

For Roraback, who began his prep year the very same fall that women were first admitted to Hotchkiss, the training he received at the School has figured prominently in his life. It has also given him what he calls one of his "greatest gifts," which is the friendship and association with the Class of 1978. "Outside of my family, I feel closest to my Hotchkiss classmates. We continue to support one another in countless ways in relationships that never grow stale. The time we spent together in Lakeville forged a unique bond that is shared and treasured. As time marches on, we appreciate more and more just how fortunate we are to have been given the opportunity to spend such an important time in our lives in the company of one another at such a beautiful place."

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