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Sandra Day O’Connor to Speak at OU Law

Former U.S. Justice Sandra Day O’Conner to speak at the President’s Associates dinner.

The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1981 to 2006, will speak at a President’s Associates dinner at the University of Oklahoma on Thursday, Feb. 6. Prior to dinner, O’Connor will deliver the Henry Lecture to students at the OU College of Law.

Often referred to as the most influential woman in America, O’Connor became the first woman named to the country’s highest court, after being appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

“We are honored to have Justice O’Connor visit the university,” said President David L. Boren. “Her visit is especially timely as we consider the independent role of the judiciary in our state.”

During her tenure on the Supreme Court, O’Connor was known for her dispassionate and meticulously researched opinions. O’Connor was an unwavering proponent of state autonomy, arguing that the framers of the Constitution intended for the federal government to institute its regulations itself, not force the states to do it for them. Her support for state rights has been traced by many back to her experience in state government.

O’Connor earned both a bachelor’s degree in economics and a law degree from Stanford University. In law school, she served on the Stanford Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif, a legal honor society.

After graduation, however, she was unable to find a job as a private sector lawyer. She turned to public service, accepting a job as the deputy county attorney for San Mateo, Calif. When her husband, also a lawyer, was drafted into the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps and sent to Frankfurt, Germany, O’Connor served as a civilian lawyer in the Quartermaster’s Corps.

Settling in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1957, O’Connor started a law firm with one partner, handling a wide variety of small cases. She later served as an Arizona assistant state attorney general. When a state senator resigned to take an appointment in Washington D.C., she was appointed to the vacant seat, and was elected for two more terms.

After serving as the first woman majority leader in the United States, from 1972 to 1974, she became a trial judge in Phoenix. In 1979, the newly elected Democratic governor nominated O’Connor to the Arizona Court of Appeals. Less than two years later, she was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

O’Connor served as chancellor of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. from 2005 to 2012, and currently serves on the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

On Aug. 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Barack Obama.

She is also the author of several books, including the recently published Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court.

Limited seating is available by reservation for OU students, faculty and staff, with overflow seating available to the public. For reservations, more information and accommodations on the basis of disability, please call OU Public Affairs at (405) 325-3784 or email specialevents@ou.edu.