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The View from West of the Rockies

Mary Murphy Schroeder '62

For me-and I suspect for the entire generation of middle 20th-century Swarthmore students who went into law, public policy, and public service-the College was J. Roland Pennock. No one taught constitutional law as well as Roland; no one taught students as well as he did. A man of gigantic intellectual reach himself, he understood the capacities-and the limitations-of his students.

It was because of Roland that I was able to attend a law school of the first rank. In need of hefty financial aid-and lacking the stellar academic record to obtain it easily-I set my eye on a scholarship from the University of Chicago that was specifically earmarked for a Swarthmore student. Roland watched with what I hoped was silent approval as I encouraged all of those with better records than mine to go to other law schools. He then chaired the committee that awarded me the scholarship. It was a win-win situation for just about everyone. Years later, the parent of one of the students whose legal career was influenced by my maneuverings introduced me at a Rotary Club function. He proudly called me "the person who caused my son to go to the University of Michigan Law School."

It is because of professors like Roland Pennock that Swarthmore is justifiably proud of its tradition of teaching. I am certain that there have been many professors who, like Roland, are not just teachers but career mentors. He must have followed the careers of nearly all of his students, for I recall that years after my graduation, when I was working at a law firm in Phoenix, Roland called me out of the blue. He told me that he was attending the meeting of a learned society in Phoenix and invited me to come and have lunch so that he could introduce me to his colleagues. I was floored.

Roland Pennock was the first great mentor in my life. The second was John Frank, the legendary Phoenix lawyer who, among other things, represented Ernesto Miranda in Miranda v. Arizona. By this time, I have myself mentored a generation of law clerks who now occupy significant positions ranging from copyright counsel for Major League Baseball to governor of Arizona. They are all, indirectly, protgs of Roland Pennock.

For many of us, Swarthmore was rough going for a few years. The salvation, though, for the uprooted midwestern freshman at Swarthmore, was the friendships. Some that we thought would last for life turned out not to, but others-especially those forged in common intellectual or professional interests-are still important.

Overall, the daily presence of members of the opposite sex in our classes, on our walks, at meals, in the library, and, yes, in our dorm rooms was exhilarating. In the era when the great Ivy League universities were for men and the "Seven Sisters" were for women, Swarthmore's co-education was the reason many of us chose it in the first place. I am convinced that it is the reason many of us succeeded in a world where men and women work together. If there is one aspect of my Swarthmore experience that I did not fully appreciate at the time but have come to value now, it was living in a world where one was judged on one's own merits, without regard to gender. I was to learn all too abruptly, entering law school as one of only five women in a class of 160, that the rest of the world fell far short of that Swarthmore ideal. It was my Swarthmore experience that inspired my later successful efforts as a lawyer to write and pass the first Arizona statute barring sex discrimination in employment, yet we still have a long way to go. Now, as chief judge of the nation's largest federal circuit, I am one of only a handful of women who sit on the governing body of the federal courts, the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Then, there was the music. Always an enthusiastic, if untutored, participant in choral music, I had a tryout with Peter Gram Swing. A marvelously dedicated musician and-this being Swarthmore-a gifted teacher, he knew after approximately 90 seconds that I was unable to repeat a sequence of more than two notes. Nevertheless, he let me into the big chorus, where I spent a wonderful two years perched precariously on the next-to-last riser of the overly large second-soprano section. The musical highlight of my life was singing on the stage of Philadelphia's Academy of Music with the Philadelphia Orchestra as a member of the combined Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford choruses, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. The most memorable introduction I ever heard was given at the dress rehearsal by the associate conductor, William Smith: "Mr. Ormandy is the greatest conductor in the world when he is in trouble, and, this afternoon, you are going to see him at his very best."

No institution is perfect, and Swarthmore is no exception. There is a certain parochialism inherent in being a small, co-educational college 11 miles from Philadelphia. For those of us who made our careers and raised our families west of the Rockies, Swarthmore has kept its distance. Many of us would love to be asked to come back and speak to the students and young alumni about what we learned from our Swarthmore experiences. That is the major reason I felt honored to be asked to contribute to this book. It is my hope that it will reflect the dazzling diversity of interests and achievements realized by Swarthmore alumni in many places and fields.

I know that I am not alone in believing that Swarthmore helped me achieve more than I ever thought possible when I was at the College. When I am asked why, my response goes like this: "At Swarthmore, I felt I had to run to keep up with everyone there. After I left Swarthmore, I kept the same pace and discovered I was running faster than just about everybody else." I am grateful.

Mary Murphy Schroeder, Chief Judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has served on that court since 1979.