Celebration 45

Twenty-two years ago, HLS student Sheila James Kuehl ’78 had an inspiration. Why not invite all alumnae back to Cambridge, for the first time ever, to celebrate the brief but momentous history of women at Harvard Law School? Since the pioneering Thirteen of 1953, the influence of HLS alumnae had spread quickly from the School into all avenues of law. It was time to applaud, assess, and look ahead.

The resounding success of Celebration 25 in 1978 launched an HLS tradition; this November, alumnae convened for the fifth time, for Celebration 45. A greater number of HLS women attended than ever before; today there are more than 5,000 of them. Long outnumbered by their male counterparts in the classroom, the celebrants clearly enjoyed being in the company of hundreds of alumnae.

Attorney General Janet Reno ’63 came to accept the Celebration 45 Award, gave a stirring speech, shook countless hands, and shared a few laughs with HLS comrades. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56–’58, recipient of the first Celebration Award, delivered the welcome address to graduates and guests. Nationally acclaimed scholar and author Lani Guinier, a new HLS faculty member, also spoke, on Sunday during the Farewell Brunch. (See story page 36.)

HLSA President Jacques Salès LL.M. ’67 addressed the graduates, Dean Robert Clark ’72 and Harvard University President Neil Rudenstine shared their views, and historian Daniel Coquillette ’71 gave a talk on the early women who tried and failed to gain admission to the School.

But the weekend clearly belonged to the alumnae of Harvard Law. Many had attended Celebration 40, and quite a number took part in the earlier Celebrations as well.

"We’re gathering to reflect with our peers, discuss new models, and plan ways to link the women of HLS more closely with each other and the School," said Jeanine Jacobs Goldberg ’63, of Friedlander & Werlin LLP in L.A. She led the Celebration planning, and despite a broken leg cheerfully navigated its breakneck schedule.

In addition to Goldberg, two alumnae played key roles in Celebration planning. Elizabeth Stong ’82, Willkie Farr & Gallagher partner in New York City, developed the weekend-long program of panel discussions and peer group sessions. And gift chair Judith Richards Hope ’64, senior counsel to Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker in Washington, D.C., led the Celebration fundraising effort.

Capping the Celebration 45 Dinner was "Our Night in the Spotlight"—an evening of music and theater inspired by alumnae, directed by Emily Sexton ’99, and produced by Steven Price ’87. Judge Frederica Brenneman ’53 donned a robe to star as "Mom" in the one-act play How I Learned to Be a Judge’s Daughter, written by her daughter Amy Brenneman, a nationally known actor. Dean Clark made a cameo appearance as a waiter during the Ally McReal skit, and Sheila Kuehl, who was a child actor, played Della Street in Perry and Della.

In her remarks on Saturday, Goldberg recalled Celebration 40, when Dean Clark had applauded HLS women’s contributions and said he wanted his tenure to represent a quantum leap in the number of women on the HLS faculty. That leap has been made: in 1994 there were only five women core faculty members; today there are thirteen.

The job isn’t finished yet, the dean said, but the brief history of HLS women has already worked a powerful transformation. "Because of women’s presence at the School, the character, chemistry, modes of interaction, methods of getting things done in the classrooms and on committees—they are all different now," said Clark. "And the change is staggeringly, amazingly good."

Raise a Glass to Mothers, Fathers, Mentors, and Other Prodders
On Friday evening, Jeanine Goldberg kicked off the Celebration weekend with a warm greeting to the graduates and their guests.

Then Sheila Kuehl, today a member of the California State Assembly, took up her trusty microphone once again, after the five-year hiatus since Celebration 40. Emceeing a round of toasts and storytelling, a favorite Celebration tradition, Kuehl invited listeners to honor the individuals who most encouraged them to brave Harvard Law School and pursue their dreams. For her part, Kuehl toasted her father, "who made things. He taught me that anything could be taken apart, understood, and put back together again"—skills useful in lawyering and in life.

"Part time in a law firm is full time in other fields, and full time in a law firm is twice that of anywhere else," said Judith Richards Hope ’64. Her advice to law students: "Get some energy pills" and a supportive family.
The alumnae quickly warmed up to Kuehl’s invitation. Many toasted remarkable family members. Elizabeth Buckley ’91 thanked her mother, a 1962 alumna, and recalled the years when she spent every day after school in her mother’s law office, and determined she would never ever become a lawyer—until she changed her mind after college. Two graduates praised their mothers—both of whom were among the first women to attend college in India, forged extraordinary careers, and inspired their daughters to do the same. A father toasted his daughter, who returned the honor later in the evening. N. Beth Emery ’77 raised a glass to honor her grandmother, who had worked as a bookkeeper and in 1962 became "the first woman ‘Man of the Year’ in Shawnee, Oklahoma."

KuehlSome alumnae toasted HLS faculty and other teachers. Elizabeth Cazden ’78 cited Jeanne Charn ’70, director of the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center, "who told us over and over that who you are as a lawyer is the same as who you are as a person." Deborah Coleman ’76 toasted Professor Gary Bellow ’60, "the first lawyer with the temerity to suggest that law is about people," and said how important his innovative clinical programs were for students. Evelyn Lewis ’75 praised former HLS faculty member Derrick Bell. "Through his teaching I found my own intersection of race and gender," she said.

Zita Weinshienk ’58 remembered a persuasive professor of economics at the University of Colorado. As she pondered her future after college, Professor Zubrow informed her: "I’ve decided what you should do. Since you are making an A in my class in advanced economic theory, you should go to law school." The next time she babysat for his children, he had more advice. "I’ve decided which law school you should attend. Harvard." Weinshienk took her professor’s advice. At HLS she found her calling, and went on to become the first woman U.S. District judge in Colorado. She also met a classmate who became her husband by the end of their first year, and her inspiration until his death.

"Honor your mothers, follow your dreams, ignore the voices of caution," advised Jane Lakes Harman ’69, during the panel on careers in government.
An eager potential alumna of 2016, Sarah Schrager Gitlin, daughter of Carol Schrager ’79, offered her hopeful assessment to the graduates: "Think about how the world used to be. Now look at how the world has changed. It will change more." Her mother then claimed the mike and toasted all the lasting friends who got her through "the crucible of Harvard Law School."

Said Tahmika Ruth, 1L and future 2001 alumna: "I’m part of a legacy. Thanks to all of you who came before us."

Early in the evening, a group of 1L students who had passed out leaflets asked the alumnae to join their push for increased HLS recruitment of women students (the current 1L class is 43 percent women). Kuehl and other graduates agreed that more progress is needed but added that, from their perspectives, the School has come a long way in 45 years.

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