Charles Williams | August 10, 2020
After nearly 40 years of service to Notre Dame Law School, Professor and former Dean Patricia O’Hara has decided to transition to emerita status.
O’Hara ’74 J.D. said she was “deeply grateful to my colleagues, past and present, with whom I have been privileged to serve, as well as to the thousands of students, now alumni, who have touched my life. I have been blessed beyond all measure.
“Notre Dame,” she said, “has never been my job; it has been my vocation.”
O’Hara, who served as Law School dean from 1999-2009, first joined the Law School faculty in 1981, earning tenure in 1987 and becoming a full professor in 1990. She served as a member of the Committee on Infractions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association from 1988-1990 and as the University of Notre Dame's vice president for student affairs from 1990-1999.
As one of her former students, Tom Lange ’81, ’86 J.D., noted, O’Hara’s career at Notre Dame was punctuated by a series of firsts: “the first woman to graduate first in her class from Notre Dame Law School, the first woman appointed by the Board of Trustees to serve as an officer of the University as vice president for student affairs, and the first woman to serve as dean of the Law School.”
As dean, she helped conceive the construction of Eck Hall of Law and the renovation of Biolchini Hall of Law, and played a key role in securing the $57.6 million needed to fund both projects. To support the faculty, she began a research sabbatical program that was competitive with peer law schools and created an associate dean position to focus on faculty scholarship. To support students, she helped lead a reorganization of the Legal Aid Clinic, now known as the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center, raised significant funds for student scholarships, and oversaw the launch of the Law School's Loan Repayment Assistance Program. She also helped recruit and hire 18 outstanding faculty members who to this day recall her many personal kindnesses.
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