Evangel Profile

2015 Commencement Speaker: The Honorable Samuel Der-Yeghiayan (’75)

April 17, 2015


Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan is a United States District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. He was nominated by the President of the United States as a Federal Judge and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in 2003. He is noteworthy of being the first Armenian immigrant Federal Judge in the history of the United States.

Judge Der-Yeghiayan earned his B.A. from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri in 1975, and was inducted into the Evangel Crusader Hall of Fame in 1991. He received his Juris Doctor Degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center (University of New Hampshire Law School) in Concord, New Hampshire in 1978.

Judge Der-Yeghiayan began his legal career as an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department under the U.S. Attorney General’s Honors Program. He served in various capacities with the Chicago District of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, with jurisdiction over the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, including as a Trial Attorney from 1978 to 1982, Acting District Director from 1986 to 1987, and District Counsel from 1982 to 2000. Judge Der-Yeghiayan served as a U.S. Immigration Judge from 2000 to 2003. He also served as a Special Advisor to the Attorney General of the United States from 2001 to 2004.

For 20 consecutive years, from 1981 to 2000, Judge Der-Yeghiayan received Outstanding Performance Ratings as a U.S. Justice Department Attorney from different Attorney Generals of the United States. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Frank J. McGarr Award of the Federal Bar Association as the Outstanding Federal Government Attorney in Chicago in 1986, District Counsel of the Year Award from the Commissioner of the INS and the Attorney General of the United States in 1998, and Congressional Recognition for Outstanding Service in 2003.

Since joining the federal bench in 2003, Judge Der-Yeghiayan has presided over numerous complex and high-profile cases, both civil and criminal. He has served on many occasions as the Acting Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and has also served as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by designation. Judge Der-Yeghiayan serves on the Judicial Council of the Seventh Circuit and on the Executive Committee of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In addition, he volunteers his time educating law students, college students, high school students, and elementary school students.

In 2008, Evangel University presented Judge Der-Yeghiayan with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Judge Der-Yeghiayan met his wife, Becky, at Evangel University. They have been married for 40 years, attend an Assemblies of God church, and have been blessed with two children and three grandchildren.