Peter D. Willis, 79, passed away Dec. 29 after an unexpected illness. He was a 25-year veteran of Kutak Rock, most recently serving as senior of counsel in arbitration and mediation. After earning his Eagle Scout rank in the Long’s Peak Council in Colorado, he earned his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and his law degree from the University of Denver College of Law.
Peter began his legal career at the Denver District Attorney’s Office, where he became a first assistant district attorney. He then started his own firm with longtime friends John Holm and Al Dill, which became Willis, Holm and Dill. Peter left private practice and joined Mountain Bell in 1980. Following his involvement in the landmark divestiture case involving the breakup of the Bell system, Peter became general counsel of litigation and risk management for US West, Inc., and managed all litigation for US West’s 14-state region.
In 1994 Peter joined Kutak Rock LLP and spent his remaining 25 years there, officially retiring in December 2019. He was a national commercial panelist and arbitrator of the American Arbitration Association, was elected a Fellow of the American Bar Association and the Colorado Bar Association. Additionally, he was recognized with the prestigious William L. Keating Outstanding Alumni Award in 2007, and the distinguished DU Law Star. Peter was appointed by former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens to the Supreme Court Nominating Commission and also served as a director on the board of the Colorado Judicial Institute. In additional to arbitration, Peter practiced in nonprofit law, nonprofit issues and corporate governance.
Peter is survived by his wife of 52 years, Rosemary, three children, and several grandchildren.
His colleagues recall his warm smile and demeanor—a true gem of a gentleman—and can testify that he lived by the Scout Law until his last day. He leaves behind a legacy of professionalism, service and kindness that is an example for those who were fortunate to know him.