Linda Lacey & the Evolution of Women at TU Law
The Professorial Landscape in the 1980s
Professor Linda Lacey, along with Professors Chris Blair, Rex Zedalis, and Kathy Marcel (who left TU in the early 1980s), joined the TU law faculty as newly minted, tenure-track assistant professors in 1981. Sue Titus Reid was the first and only female tenured TU law faculty member at that time, having transferred to TU with tenure from the University of Washington. In August 1982, Dan Morrissey and I came on board as tenure-track associate and assistant professors, respectively. Catherine Cullem also arrived with us as a visiting assistant professor assigned to the legal writing program. Marian Parker, an assistant professor of law, was director of the law library. Frank Walwer was Dean, and Martin Frey was Associate Dean then. Professors John Hager, Orley Lilly, Rennard Strickland, Jim Thomas, Ralph Thomas, Kent Frizzell, Ray Yasser, John Hicks, Tom Holland, Bill Hollingsworth, John Lowe, David Clark, Gary Allison, Chuck Adams, and Tom Arnold rounded out the existing full-time members of the law faculty back then. By August 1986, i.e., the first year of the Class of 1989 at TU law school, Prof. Richard Ducey had replaced Marian Parker as director of the law library and assistant professor of law.
The regular, full-time law faculty during the 1980s was comprised overwhelmingly of men. The policy and political views of the faculty ran the gamut from quite conservative to very liberal and many points in between. I was thirty-one years â€œyoungâ€ when I arrived at TU College of Law from Washington, D.C., in August 1982, having voluntarily left a management legal position with a federal agency to pursue my dream of becoming a law teacher. Linda Lacey, whose style and political and social views were, indeed, quite left of center, was immediately wary of me. Sometimes I sensed that she thought I was a clone of Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, the staunchÂ conservative who vigorously campaigned across the nation against modern feminism and against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In an effort to make conversation one day in the faculty lounge, Linda haltingly asked me about a couple of items on my resume which apparently had convinced her that I was â€œthe anti-feminist.â€
Linda inquired, â€œJust out of curiosity, why did the Outstanding Young Women of America program name youÂ â€˜Outstanding Young Woman of the Year’ for Arkansas in 1977?â€ I replied: â€œBecause I co-chaired the state coalition seeking ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, lobbied Congress as national president of an organization of 200,000 college women to get Title IX enacted, actively opposed efforts by some Congressmen to gut Title IX after it became law, pressured the Ford White House to release Title IX implementing regs, served as the only college student on Governor David Pryor’s Commission on the Status of Women, represented Arkansas as an elected delegate to the first International Women’s Year Conference in Houston, tangled with Phyllis Schalfly over the ERA in the Arkansas Legislature, participated in National Organization for Women and National Women’s Political Caucus conferences, and, for two years during law school, chaired a subcommittee on equal employment opportunity laws of the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary’s Advisory Committee.â€ Linda’s eyes immediately widened, and her characteristic smile spread across her face as she visibly relaxed.
â€œWell, what about that Ladies’ Home Journal Women of the Year jury panel you served on?â€ Linda asked. Sensing that she was still suspicious of my views of the role of women in society, I explained: â€œOh, Ladies’ Home Journal tried to appease NOW and other feminist groups by working with CBS to create a nationally televised awards program honoring women leaders in eight different fields. I was the only college student on the panel of judges for two years. The judges included women such as Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Major General Jeanne Holm (the highest ranking woman in the military at the time), and other strong, accomplished women. The women we selected to honor for the first live CBS nationally televised broadcast from the Kennedy Center in 1973 were Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Washington Post President Katharine Graham, Dr. Virginia Apgar, human rights activist LaDonna Harris, Mary Lasker of the Lasker Foundation, feminist poet Nikki Giovanni, and Helen Hayes for the performing arts category.â€ That reply seemed to put Linda even more at ease.
Women Earn Tenure
Shortly after that encounter in the faculty lounge, Linda invited Marian Parker, Kathleen W. Marcel, Catherine Cullem, and me to drop by her home near campus for â€œwine and conversationâ€ after classes one day. Linda’s real purpose was to develop strategies to hire more women and to enhance our ability to make it through the tenure-track and promotion process at TU. No woman law faculty member had ever been awarded tenure and promotion after starting from the beginning as an assistant professor. The rest is â€œher-story,â€ to which I will return shortly.
Linda also regaled us with a story about taking classes across campus with Germaine Greer, the prominent international feminist writer and intellectual who was on the TU liberal arts faculty at that time. Germaine stopped Linda when she spied Linda wearing a blouse and skirt and panty hose walking across campus one day and asked: â€œLinda, does your Dean make you wear those panty hose? I hope you know panty hose are bad for your health!â€
As the members of the TU Class of 1989 began their legal education, Linda Lacey became the first female TU law professor to be awarded tenure after starting as an assistant professor and undergoing the full schedule of reviews, contract renewals, and promotion. And, as the TU Class of 1989 became upper division law students, I joined Linda as the second woman to attain tenure on the law faculty. Needless to say, that was a stress-relieving milestone for both of us!
Since there were so few women on both the law and general university faculty in the early 1980s, Linda and I both carried very heavy committee workloads, in addition to full teaching loads. We worked very long days and weekends to prepare for class, complete our research and scholarship, and fulfill university, community, and professional service expectations. Sleep was hard to come by. Exercise and healthy eating habits were also sacrificed to create more time to do everything expected of us.
Linda and I were also sought out by women law students for personal counseling as well as professional advice. We were impressed by the number of women law students who were gifted academically and strong leaders. Women students had already achieved such milestones as SBA president and law review editor long before Linda and I arrived. Since TU had a part-time division, a significant number of women who had interrupted their educational paths to have children enrolled in the part-time program.
The number of women law faculty increased significantly from 1984 to 1990. Again, I credit Linda Lacey’s pivotal role in recruiting, strategizing, and building faculty coalitions to secure approval to hire Taunya Banks (who now teaches at the University of Maryland) in 1984, Marianne Blair in 1986, Winona Tanaka (who is now a TU administrator) as a visiting assistant professor and first legal clinic director in 1987, Vicki Limas in 1988, and Marla Mansfield in 1989-90.
Judith Royster came on board in 1990-91, followed by Lundy Langston in 1992, Barbara Bucholtz in 1994, and Janet Levit, Kim Krawiec, Melissa Tatum, and Kate Waits in 1995, and Madeleine Plasencia in 1998. Suzanne Leavitt and Leslie Mansfield were also hired into tenure-track positions in the TU legal clinic during this period. Certainly, by the end of 1990s, there was quite a buzz among the American Association of American Law Schools’ Women in Legal Education section about the large percentage of tenured and tenure-track women at The University of Tulsa. Even more women have joined the TU Law faculty during the 21st Century.
During the 1980s, Linda met a Texas attorney at a National Lawyers Guild meeting named Victor Hunt. She giggled like a giddy teenager showing Taunya Banks and me a note he had written to her and quizzing us about whether we thought he â€œlikedâ€ her. Linda and Victor fell in love and were married at All Souls Church. They adopted two musically gifted children, Elisabeth and then Michael, who were the joy of their lives. Later, Linda over came breast cancer only to subsequently develop leukemia from which she died on March 9, 2008, at age 62. The TU Women’s Studies Program has named a faculty mentoring award in Linda’s honor. Linda and Victor’s son Michael, a TU undergrad, died on November 11, 2013. An undergraduate scholarship has been created in his honor.
Linda was largely responsible for setting in motion the changes that have enabled both women students and women faculty to achieve success at The University of Tulsa. Women law faculty have served as academic associate deans or administrative assistant deans for many years. As a result in part of the activism of Linda Lacey, in October 2007, TU President Steadman Upham appointed Professor Janet Koven Levit as Interim Dean of the College of Law, and on July 10, 2008, she was appointed Dean of the College of Law, becoming the first woman dean of an Oklahoma law school.
And, as a different kind of milestone for women law faculty, on May 31, 2013, I became the first female tenured member of the faculty to retire and transition to emeritus professor of law.
Marguerite Chapman, J.D., LL.M.
Emeritus Professor of Law