UC Berkeley law school dean, Herma Hill Kay, announces plans to step down in 2000

By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- Herma Hill Kay, who made national headlines when she was named the first woman dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 1992, announced today (Aug. 17) that she will step down from that post at the end of the 1999-2000 school year.

Kay, 65, said she has largely met her goals as dean and is looking forward to returning to teaching and scholarship.

"During my eight years as dean, we have strengthened our students' education; attracted outstanding legal scholars; and made vast improvements to the law school building itself. The school is ready to further distinguish itself in the new century."

Before Kay became dean she had already established herself as a leading scholar in family law and as a strong voice in the legal profession overall.

She co-authored the state's much copied no-fault divorce act, which became law in 1970. A year later, the National Women's Political Caucus named her as one of 10 women qualified for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last year, the National Law Journal named her among the 50 most influential female lawyers in the country and among the eight most influential in Northern California.

"Dean Herma Kay has been a strong, dynamic, and above all, principled leader during a very important and sometimes difficult period of Boalt's history,'" said U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl. "Boalt is stronger and better because of her inspired leadership."

When Kay first became dean at the School of Law (Boalt Hall) she had a list of specific accomplishments in mind. Those goals included:

o Creating an in-house clinical education program to provide students with hands-on legal experience. The Center for Clinical Education, which includes the International Human Rights Clinic and the Federal Practice Clinic, opened in fall 1998.

o Strengthening faculty by adding outstanding new members at all levels, from entry level to more senior levels. This has been accomplished.

o Building on the strength of the law school's specialization programs. The Center for Law and Technology was established in 1996. The Center for Social Justice was established in 1999. Other programs are being expanded.

o Promoting creativity among scholars. The Dean's Office has sponsored 16 distinguished faculty lectures, which are given by Boalt faculty members upon their appointment to endowed chairs.

o Improving Boalt's physical facility. Boalt Hall underwent extensive remodeling. Entire new structures were also added to the law school, the Simon Wing and North Addition.

o Raising substantial new funds for new faculty chairs and other projects. To date, Kay has raised more than $33 million. In addition to the new faculty chairs, four endowed Distinguished Professorships were established and the library has been expanded and equipped with more computer labs.

As dean, Kay has also seen the celebration of Boalt's 100th birthday (1894-1994), the first Reunion of Boalt Women, and the first meeting of the International Association of Boalt Alumni in Berkeley.

Under her watch as dean, the law school has faced a number of challenges that have drawn her into the forefront of the national debate regarding such issues as affirmative action.

For example, after the UC Regents' decision eliminated affirmative action in admissions at the University of California, and since the passage of Proposition 209, Kay has sought new methods to maintain a diverse student body at the law school while also complying with the new law.

Working with alumni, local bar associations and others, she stepped up efforts to aggressively recruit minority students.

Kay first came to Boalt Hall in 1960, the second woman ever to teach there.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reflected on Kay's accomplishments during a 1998 luncheon honoring the dean.

"It took Boalt Hall 41 years to hire its second woman ... It was a momentous appointment then, a recognition that women could serve on law faculties as more than one-at-a-time curiosities.

"Herma's persistent endeavor has been to ensure that what was momentous in 1960 would become commonplace in the millennium -- law faculties and student generations reflecting the full capacity and diversity of all our nation's people, not just some."


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