Rathbun Visiting Fellow, 2008

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

In its inaugural year, The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, BA ’50, LLB ’52, former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, accepted the honor to serve as the first Rathbun Visiting Fellow. While an undergraduate student at Stanford, Justice O’Connor took Professor Rathbun’s class and oftentimes attended gatherings at the Rathbuns’ Palo Alto home, where students came to discuss ethics, psychology, and religion. In countless interviews and also in her book, Lazy B, she has credited Professor Rathbun for showing her that the law could be an instrument of positive social change so much so that she ultimately applied to Stanford Law School, was accepted, and thus shaped the course of her life.

Over the course of her three-day visit to Stanford April 20-22, 2008, Justice O’Connor participated in a variety of intimate forums with students, faculty, alumni, and local community members to discuss personal values, beliefs, and motivations. These interactions with students drew from her reflections on personal themes such as growing up in a ranching community, committing to lifelong public service, maintaining personal health, and pioneering women’s professional roles. Her visit concluded on Tuesday, April 22, when she delivered her own version of “Harry’s Last Lecture on a Meaningful Life,” just as her mentor did more than five decades prior, discussing how purpose and values can lead to a happy and fulfilling life.

The lecture was held in Stanford Memorial Church and was free and available to Stanford students, faculty, and staff. The entire video can be viewed below and is available on Stanford’s YouTube Channel or Stanford on iTunesU.

Related articles:

“Sandra Day O’Connor to deliver inaugural Rathbun Lecture,” Stanford Report, April 16, 2008

“Supreme Court justice pushes public service,” The Stanford Daily, April 22, 2008

“Former justice reflects on how law professor helped shape her life philosophy,” Stanford Report, April 23, 2008

“O’Connor advises audience,” The Stanford Daily, April 23, 2008


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