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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stanford Law Spouses: Sandra Day and John O'Connor

John O’Connor, husband of Sandra Day O’Connor, died today at the age of 79.  My condolences to the family.  The couple met while at Stanford Law School (my alma mater) in the 1950s, where they both served as Law Review editors.  "Beware of proofreading over a glass of beer," Mr. O'Connor was later quoted as saying.

I also met my wife Roberta Oster while at I was Stanford, in Kathleen Sullivan’s First Amendment course, so I have a special interest in SLS couples.

Reading the obituary reminded me of an episode involving Professor Sullivan.  When she was serving as Dean of SLS, she came to Boston in the winter of 2003 to give a pep talk to admitted students in New England.  As one of a handful of SLS alums in Boston, I went to the dinner.  Many of these students had been admitted to both Stanford and Harvard and had to make an agonizing decision between the two.  After cocktails, Sullivan made a passionate plea for the students to accept at Stanford, citing its growing faculty, increasing clinical program, great location in the heart of Silicon Valley etc.  

As she was speaking, a major storm rolled into Boston, the skies turned dark gray, and hail fell that was so big it was banging against the windows of the building and making quite a racket.  Dean Sullivan paused, pointed toward the windows, and said with a grin, “Here’s one more reason to come to Stanford – res ipsa loquitur.”

Then she said, “And there’s another reason you should come to Stanford.  You can meet your life partner there.”  She told the story of how Sandra Day fell in love with John O’Connor under the palm trees in the courtyard, and then pointed to me and one other alum in the room who had Stanford spouses.  I don’t have the empirical data on whether SLS students marry each other at a higher rate than Harvard Law students, but maybe this should be an additional line in the US News Rankings.

Posted by Noah Sachs on November 11, 2009 at 04:15 PM | Permalink


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I think Yale also has a solid tradition of its students marrying each other. Bill and Hillary Clinton are perhaps the most famous example, but I know of quite a few others (including myself) :)

Posted by: carissa | Nov 13, 2009 2:12:07 PM

On the undergrad side of things, just over 14% of the living alumni of Miami University (the one in Ohio) are married to each other. Popular campus lore has it that this is twice the national average, an impressive stat for a school with 15,000 undergrads.

Posted by: Chuck | Nov 12, 2009 10:30:13 PM

And, of course, John O'Connor had to vie for her affections with another Stanford student--some guy named Bill Rehnquist.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Nov 11, 2009 7:52:43 PM

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