Glendon wins major prize for lifelong work


This past Tuesday at the Library of Congress, the Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation honored the achievements of Learned Hand Professor of Law Mary Ann Glendon and three Harvard Alumni – Leon Kass, Charles Krauthammer, and Thomas Sowell – with awards of $250,000. The Milwaukee-based foundation established the prize last March to recognize individuals whose work has furthered the mission of “liberal democracy, democratic capitalism, and a vigorous defense of American institutions.”

The foundation solicited nominations from over 100 individuals and the final selection committee included Michael Grebe, former Senator William Armstrong, Robert Bartley, The Honorable Robert H. Bork, William F. Buckley, Jr., Paul Johnson, Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Dianne Sehler and James Wilson.

Hardly the first accolade on her resume, Glendon’s achievements range from winning the Legal Academy’s highest award, the Order of the Coif Triennial Book Award in 1993 for her comparative study, The Transformation of Family Law, to leading the Holy See’s delegation to the U.N.’s Fourth Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995.

Well-liked by students for her teaching style and friendly demeanor (according to a student of her first year property class last year, she brought Krispy Kreme donuts to class upon discovering a Boston establishment that offered them), Glendon teaches a range of courses on topics including property, legal thought, human rights, and Tocqueville.

Born and raised in Dalton, “the beautiful Berkshires,” Glendon attended the University of Chicago for both her undergraduate and graduate years.

As an undergraduate student, she did not focus on a particular area of study. “At that time, there were no majors,” Glendon said. “We all took proscribed courses in the natural sciences, the human sciences, and history and were rushed into graduate school as soon as we finished the core courses.”

Of her choice of pursue a legal degree, Glendon replied, “I chose law school at the age of 19 without much reflection, after hearing a law professor give a lecture on Plato … and also because a cute boy from my hometown was going there!”

Her interest in political and legal issues grew out of a long family tradition – her grandfather was chairman of the Dalton Republican Committee, her grandmother a vocal participant in town meetings, and her father the first Democrat to be elected chairman of Dalton’s Board of Selectmen.

Glendon spend her summers during high school, college, and law school working for newspapers where her co-workers were “intensely interested in local and national politics.”

As a law student, Glendon said “the most exciting and skillful teacher I had was Bernard Meltzer – Dan Meltzer’s father – who taught Evidence and Labor Law.”

Glendon participated in Moot Court and was an editor of the Law Review, where she wrote her comment on “an excruciatingly boring subject: accounts receivable financing and the bankruptcy act!”

She also obtained a Masters of Comparative Law, studying under Max Rheinstein, a student and translator of Max Weber. “It was an apprenticeship with a deeply learned comparativist that developed into co-authorship of two books, one on decedents’ estates and the other one on marital property law.”

With three degrees from the University of Chicago under her belt, Glendon took advantage of a Ford Foundation fellowship to study French law for two years, and spent part of that time at the University of Brussels and as a legal intern with the European Economic Community.

After her return to the United States, Glendon spent five years practicing law at Mayer, Brown & Platt in Chicago, where she divided her time between litigation and labor law. In her non-billable hours, she served as a volunteer criminal defense attorney, as well as a volunteer civil rights attorney in Mississippi in Freedom Summer 1964.

Glendon’s career as a law professor began at Boston College Law School in 1968, and included posts as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago and the Gregorian University in Rome before she joined the faculty at Harvard Law School in 1986. She was named the Learned Hand Professor of Law in 1993.

Of the comparison between HLS and the other institutions, Glendon remarked “Harvard cannot be matched in terms of resources for international legal studies.”

“Slowly, but surely, we are moving towards our aim of becoming a ‘world law school’, internationalizing our faculty, our curriculum and our student body,” she added.

However, she said that while a student at the University of Chicago, “I was also very much influenced by Karl Llewellyn’s Introduction to Law course and hope that Harvard will establish such a course for first-year students as we move toward curricular innovation.”

“I hope that we can provide first-year students with an introduction to the legal system similar to that we presently give our foreign students … a framework within which to begin to organize the mass of knowledge they are about to acquire,” she said.

Glendon’s academic work has produced a host of publications, the latest which is a book published in 2001, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“I’m always the most pleased with the latest book I write,” she said of the book, which she described as “my history of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which I combined with a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt for the years during which she served on the UN’s Human Rights Commission.”

Her research interests began with a focus on “the mediating structures of civil society – the institutions upon which a republican form of government and a market economy silently depend.”

This period of her scholarship led to books and articles on family law, property law, labor law, church-state law, and the legal profession. “Those works in turn led me to further explore the ways in which other legal systems handle problems that the United States hasn’t resolved, or hasn’t handled very well.”

A sampling of book titles includes, A Nation Under Lawyers, Seedbeds of Virtue (co-edited with David Blankenhorn), Rights Talk, and Abortion and Divorce in Western Law, for which she won the Scribes Book Award from the American Society of Writers on Legal Subjects.

Currently Glendon is working on “how different societies deal with poverty, and the dependency of the very young and the frail elderly.”

Outside of HLS, Glendon is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and a consultant to the Pontifical Council on the Family, as well as a member of the Archdiocesan Social Justice Commission, an establishment that works to “ensure that Catholics in the local church – labor leaders, business persons, academics, and Church works – [are] well acquainted with the social teachings of the Church.”

Although not a member of a political party, Glendon also serves on President Bush’s Council on Bioethics, which published a report entitled “Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry,” in July of 2002.

“We are presently working on a report on how some bio-medical technologies have moved beyond therapy to various kinds of enhancement,” she added.

Glendon’s non-law related interests include snorkeling, hiking and travel.

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