A History of Diversity at BU Law


Boston University School of Law is founded. The school offers legal education to all qualified students without regard to race, gender, religion, or national origin.


takeohewlettTakeo Kikuchi becomes the first Japanese graduate of BU Law, and goes on to co-found Tokyo’s Chuo University. Emanuel Hewlett becomes the first black BU Law graduate and one of the first black degree recipients of a major US law school. In 1906, he argues the first and only criminal trial at the US Supreme Court.


Lelia RobinsonJosephine Robinson is the first female BU Law graduate. She succeeds in getting a bill passed permitting the admission of women to the Massachusetts Bar. The BU Law Women’s Law Association and the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association have both named awards for exemplary leadership in the community after this female pioneer.


Fall Anna Christy Fall graduates from BU Law. She later becomes the first woman to try a case before a jury in Massachusetts, which she wins. In 1898, she writes The Tragedy of a Widow’s Third, which was considered the catalyst for the passage of a 1902 Massachusetts law that put wives on equal footing with their husbands in case either died without a will.


Butler wilsonRoland Wilson (Class of 1884) is one of three black men inadvertently admitted to the American Bar Association. The organization then requires applicants to make known their race on applications, and does not integrate until 1943. In 1912, Wilson co-founds the Boston chapter of the NAACP.



Alice Stone Blackwell (Class of 1881) helps found the League of Women Voters, serves as president of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and edits the Women’s Journal, AWSA’s official magazine.


Clarabruce Burrill Bruce (Class of 1926) is elected editor-in-chief of the Boston University Law Review. She is the first black woman in the US to hold the top position on a law review journal.


Emma Fall Schofield (Class of 1908) and Sadie Lipner Shulman (Class of 1911) are simultaneously appointed the first two women in Massachusetts to sit on the bench. Schofield had previous served as the first female assistant attorney general in Massachusetts.


Felix Forte (Class of 1916) is nominated for Massachusetts Attorney General on the Republican ticket. The BU Law professor and future State Superior Court Judge is the first Italian-American nominated for statewide office.


Peter adujaA. Aduja (’51) becomes the country’s first American of Filipino ancestry to win a major elective post, claiming a seat in the Territorial House of Representatives as a Republican from Hilo, Hawaii. During his career in public service, he worked for the Department of the Attorney General, served as a district judge, and was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives.


Consuelo Northrop Bailey (Class of 1925) is elected lieutenant governor of Vermont. She is the first woman in the nation to be elected lieutenant governor of any state.


Clifton R. Wharton, Sr. (Class of 1920) becomes the first black diplomat to head a US delegation to a European country with his appointment as US minister to Romania by President Eisenhower. He is also the first black Foreign Service Officer in the US State Department.


Jennie Loitman Barron (Class of 1913, LLM 1914) becomes the first female associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Clarence B. Jones graduates from BU Law and becomes the first black allied member of the New York Stock Exchange when he is named a partner at the Wall Street investment banking firm, Carter, Berlind & Weill, Inc.


The BrookeHonorable Edward Brooke (Class of 1948) is elected to the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, becoming the nation’s first black individual to hold this vote and to be elected to the US Senate by popular vote.



BU Law becomes one of the first law schools to actively recruit female students by traveling to women’s colleges in the New England region. The percentage of female graduates from BU Law leaps from 8.37% in 1970 to 39.53% in 1980.


Professor Tamar Frankel is the first woman faculty member hired at BU Law.


Judge Harry Elam (Class of 1951) is the first black appointee to the Boston Municipal Court of Massachusetts.


Barbara JordanJordan (Class of 1959) is elected to represent Texas in the US House of Representatives, becoming the first black Congresswoman to represent a state in the Deep South. She delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1976 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.


OutLaw, the law school’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender group, is established.


The Boston University International Law Journal is established.


Juan R. Torruella (Class of 1957) becomes the first Hispanic to serve as chief judge on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.


The N. Neal Pike Institute for the Handicapped, later renamed the Institute for Law and Disability, is established in honor of N. Neal Pike (Class of 1937), the first blind person to be admitted to practice before the Bar of the US Supreme Court. A public service fellowship, annual lecture, and endowed faculty chair are also named in his honor.


Judge LopezMaria Lopez (Class of 1978) makes legal history as the first Latin American woman appointed to the bench in Massachusetts, and in 1993, she becomes the first female Latin American appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court.


Be Yourself Orientation is created.


Judge Judith Nelson Dilday (Class of 1974) is appointed to the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court as a circuit judge, becoming the first person of color to serve on this court.


Sandra L. Lynch (Class of 1971) is the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.


O. Thompson 2Rogeriee Thompson (Class of 1976) is the first black woman appointed associate justice for the Rhode Island Superior Court. In 2010, she is confirmed as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, becoming the first black judge on this court.



Maureen A. O’Rourke is appointed dean of BU Law, becoming the first woman to serve as the law school’s dean.


Martha Coakley (Class of 1979) is the first woman elected Attorney General of Massachusetts.


The BU Law Legacy Series begins, providing lectures, panels, and events on issues of social justice and diversity.


US LockeSenate confirms Gary Locke (Class of 1975) as Ambassador to China, becoming the first Chinese American to serve in this role. He had previously served as Governor of Washington.


Critical Conversations created as a forum to provide students, faculty and staff the opportunity to discuss diversity, identity, and inclusion.


Dean O’Rourke establishes Law School Committee on Community and Inclusion to strengthen BU Law’s commitment to being an inclusive and diverse community in which critical topics can be discussed from many perspectives civilly and respectfully.


Dr. Angela Onwuachi-Willig joins BU Law as dean, becoming the first person of color to serve in the role at the school.