Writer, advocate and teacher Leigh Bienen’s digital projects are lenses for viewing extraordinary periods in our past.
Law School Reveals Newly Named Corridor and Scholarship in Her Honor
On Friday, April 14, the Northwestern Pritzker Law community, family, close friends, and colleagues gathered in the Thorne auditorium to celebrate the legacy of Joyce A. Hughes, trailblazer and longtime professor at the Law School, who retired at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 academic year.
After earning her JD from the University of Minnesota—being the first Black woman to do so—Professor Emerita Hughes became a member of faculty there in 1971. This made her the first Black female tenure-track law professor at a predominantly white institution (PWI). Before teaching, she was awarded a clerkship with a federal district court judge in Minnesota—another first.
She joined the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law faculty in 1975. She received tenure four years later, making her the first Black woman to do so at any school of Northwestern University, as well as at any predominately white law school in the nation. She served on the Chicago Board of Education, and was the first woman and the first African American General Counsel of the Chicago Transit Authority. Throughout Professor Emerita Hughes’s career, she has established herself an expert in civil procedure, constitutional law, and refugees & asylum.
Thorne was filled with people who have been inspired, mentored, and affected by the contributions of Professor Emerita Hughes. The event included remarks from Dean Hari Osofsky; Robin Walker Sterling, associate dean for clinical education, director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, and Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law; Northwestern University President Michael Schill, and Provost Kathleen Hagerty. Professor Emerita Hughes’s sister, Shirley Hughes, and her niece, Roxanne Hughes, also gave a few words.
“Teaching wasn’t a job to Joyce. It was an imperative, a calling, who she is,” said Roxanne Hughes. “She felt an equal responsibility to pass on her knowledge and love of law. The Constitution, Scales of Justice, and the Statue of Liberty all mean something to Joyce beyond symbolism. Her mission was to prepare students inside and outside the classroom to become excellent lawyers to undertake the weight of practicing law with virtue and compassion.”
Shirley Hughes added, “Joyce is not just my sister, she’s my number one for walking the proud and lonely road of firsts,” said Shirley Hughes. “I love her dearly and celebrate the doors she has helped to open a little wider for so many who no longer walk alone.”
At the end of the reception, the Law school unveiled a portrait in honor of Professor Emerita Hughes in the newly named Professor Joyce A. Hughes Corridor.
“Professor Emerita Hughes has made such a difference in our law school community, the profession, and society as a scholar, leader, and mentor, and it was extremely important to me and so many members of our community that our Law School and University honor Professor Emerita Hughes’s extraordinary contributions and legacy,” Dean Osofsky said.
Dean Osofsky’s remarks also highlighted the new Joyce A. Hughes Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship is funded by a generous group of Northwestern Pritzker Law alumni and friends: Courtney Armstrong (JD-MBA ’97), Naima Walker Fierce (JD ’96), Sharon Bowen (JD-MBA ’82), Toni Bush (JD ’81), Joe Richardson (JD ’96), and Dean Hari Osofsky. The scholarship provides financial aid to first-generation law students, students who will diversify their class, or those interested in pursuing academic scholarship focused on the underrepresentation of various populations.
“We are incredibly grateful to our amazing alumni leaders for their generosity,” said Dean Osofsky. “It was my honor to join together them as the founding donors to establish this scholarship and we would like to thank everyone who has generously given. This scholarship honors Professor Emerita Hughes’s legacy by supporting the next generation of scholars that will build upon her important work.”
Serah Lawal (JD ’25) is the inaugural receipt of the scholarship. The 1L student from New York City knew Northwestern Pritzker Law was her dream school when she made a visit to campus in April 2022. After a conversation with members of the Black Law Student Association, she knew she had found where she belongs.
Robin Walker Sterling, associate dean for clinical education, director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, and Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law, highlighted the importance of Professor Emerita Hughes in a video prepared for the event. “It’s just an extraordinary act of courage and service that Joyce Hughes took on,” she said. “It’s always hard to be the first.”
Please consider making a gift toward the newly established Professor Joyce A. Hughes Endowed Scholarship, which provides financial aid to first generation law students, students who will diversify their class, or those with an interest in pursuing academic scholarship focused on the underrepresentation of various populations.
Check out Professor Emerita Hughes’s tribute on the Law School’s website.
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