Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will help MTSU celebrate its centennial year during a special visit Feb. 8, as part of the university’s renowned Windham Lecture Series.
O’Connor will present her free public lecture at 6:30 p.m. in the Hinton Music Hall inside Wright Music Building on campus.
“We are thrilled to host Justice O’Connor on campus,” said Mark Byrnes, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who also teaches political science. “It’s quite an honor to have her come to MTSU. Since her retirement from the bench, she’s been particularly interested in civics education, and that meshes well with MTSU’s commitment to the American Democracy Project.”
O’Connor, a native of El Paso, Texas, earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from Stanford University and served as deputy county attorney for San Mateo County, Calif., and a civilian attorney for the Quartermaster Market Center in Frankfurt, Germany, before practicing law in Maryvale, Ariz.
She served as Arizona assistant attorney general from 1965 to 1969 and was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969, earning reelection to two two-year terms in that body.
In 1975, she was elected judge of the Superior Court in Maricopa County, Ariz., where she served until her 1979 appointment to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
She became the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court when former President Ronald Reagan named her as an associate justice in 1981.
During her almost 25 years on the high court, O’Connor cast tie-breaking votes in more than three-fourths of the panel’s 5-4 decisions.
She retired from the court in January 2006, and Arizona State University renamed its law school in her honor that same year.
In 2009, President Barack Obama presented the retired jurist with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
O’Connor has also written three best-sellers: The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice, the family memoir Lazy B and a children’s book, Finding Susie.
She was married to the late John Jay O’Connor III, and the couple had three sons.
The Windham Lecture Series in Liberal Arts was established by William and Westy Windham through the MTSU Foundation.
William Windham was a member of the MTSU faculty from 1955 to 1989 and served as chairman of the department of history the last 11 years of his tenure at the university. His wife, the late Westy Windham, earned a master’s degree in sociology at MTSU and was the founder of the “Great American Singalong.”
The inaugural Windham Lecture in 1990 featured Dan T. Carter of Emory University and Dewey W. Grantham of Vanderbilt University, who spoke on “The South and the Second Reconstruction.”
Since then, the Windham Lectures have addressed topics spanning from American music to presidential rhetoric to gambling, and even American foreign policy.
The lecture is being sponsored by the MTSU Centennial Committee, the College of Liberal Arts, the University Honors College, the American Democracy Project and the department of sociology and anthropology.