Campus & Community

Marshall to receive Radcliffe Medal

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Radcliffe Day dedicated to leaders in law and social change

On Radcliffe Day, May 25, hundreds of alumnae, fellows, and friends, including many University leaders, faculty, and staff, celebrate excellence and innovation — hallmarks of both Radcliffe College and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

The day will begin with a morning panel discussion and conclude with a luncheon in Radcliffe Yard featuring a formal address delivered by the Radcliffe Medalist. The Radcliffe Institute Medal is presented to an individual whose life and work have substantially and positively influenced society.

This year, the Radcliffe Institute medal recipient and luncheon speaker is Margaret H. Marshall, Ed.M.’69, who has been a force for justice and equality throughout her life, beginning with her early years in South Africa and continuing through her service as the 24th chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Her decisions — including the historic case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts — illustrate the power of law to improve society, further equality, and affect legal policy beyond a local jurisdiction.

“We look forward to honoring Margaret Marshall as a true pioneer in her field — as the first woman to serve as Massachusetts chief justice and as the first justice in the country to make the landmark decision to legalize gay marriage,” said Radcliffe Dean Lizabeth Cohen, the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies. “She has dedicated her life to advancing social justice and to using the law to improve the lives of citizens.”

Today, as senior counsel at Choate Hall & Stewart LLP and senior research fellow and lecturer at Harvard Law School, Marshall continues to set an example for how the law can make a difference in the lives of individuals, organizations, and society more broadly.

The morning panel, “From Front Lines to High Courts: The Law and Social Change,” explores the possibilities and limits of the law in making social change. The panel will be moderated by Harvard Law School Dean and Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law Martha L. Minow, Ed.M. ’76, who is an expert in human rights with a focus on members of racial and religious minorities, and women, children, and persons with disabilities.

The panel discussion she moderates will feature four prominent women who, as legal scholars and committed practitioners, will grapple with what the law can and cannot achieve in effecting social change:

  • As a scholar and activist of labor and immigration law, practice, and reform, Jennifer Gordon ’87, J.D. ’92, is dedicated to changing how the law and our society recognize vulnerable workers. She is a professor of law at Fordham University School of Law, where she focuses on immigration law, labor law, public interest law, and law and the economy.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse ’68 was a longtime Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times whose work and writing draw on legal history to explore questions of law and inequality. She is a senior research scholar in law, Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law, and Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence at Yale Law School. She continues to write a biweekly column on law for The New York Times.
  • As a professor of law at Suffolk University Law School, Renée M. Landers ’77 focuses on health law, constitutional law, and administrative law. Landers was the first woman of color and the first law professor to serve as president of the Boston Bar Association. She has championed social justice with a focus on civil rights and equal access to education. Landers is also a member of the Radcliffe Institute’s Dean’s Advisory Council.
  • Panelist Kathleen M. Sullivan, J.D. ’81 — a Partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP and Stanley Morrison Professor of Law and former dean at Stanford Law School — will examine the constitutionality of same-sex marriage through the lens of a constitutional scholar and experienced litigator. She was the first woman dean of any school at Stanford and is the author of the nation’s leading casebook in constitutional law.

Last year, on Radcliffe Day, Cohen was introduced to the Radcliffe community as the interim dean. Having recently been named dean by Harvard University President Drew Faust (herself a former dean of the Radcliffe Institute) Cohen will lead her first Radcliffe Day with Faust, alumnae, fellows, University colleagues, and friends of the Radcliffe Institute in attendance.

“During Radcliffe Day we pause in the present to celebrate Radcliffe’s illustrious past and to pay tribute to an individual who has helped to build a better future,” said Cohen.