Iconic. Brilliant. Funny. Notorious. Words don’t come close to capturing the spirit of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her visit to Buffalo, just over a year ago, afforded a rare opportunity to be in her presence and learn from her life.
Over 1,700 members of the University at Buffalo community watched her receive a SUNY honorary degree. Nearly 3,000 members of the legal community gathered at Kleinhans Music Hall to hear her speak. And more than 120 law students experienced a live constitutional law class taught by the legendary jurist, while dozens more participated via livestream. We reflect on her visit with gratitude and pride.
Amid the national remembrances being offered for Justice Ginsburg, we asked our alumni and friends what they recall most about the justice and her celebrated visit to Buffalo:
"There are some people in life who touch you, inspire you, and motivate you to do your best. Justice Ginsburg’s tenacity, eloquence, and determination is something that I will continue to strive for in my personal and professional life. She may have spoken quietly, but her advocacy will forever ring loudly for all to hear. What a life well lived!"
- Stephanie J. Calhoun ’08
"Justice Ginsburg has been an inspiration to me for many years. I particularly identify with her as a working mother. I have admired her courage to challenge male dominance in the legal profession. My favorite RBG quote is, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” It’s an incredible analogy to the systemic oppression of the dominant group over individuals who lack the power to make progressive changes. Her words were a forewarning of the continued struggle many people of color continue to endure in our society. Her skillful strategy of representing male plaintiffs to break down unjust laws and policies mainly impacting women was brilliant. My hope is that a similar strategy is considered for breaking down the systems of racism in our country by employing all people in our society to work together to achieve that goal. May her light continue to shine through the people she inspired to make our world a better place for everyone."
- Hon. Lenora B. Foote-Beavers ’97
"Justice Ginsburg’s visit to Buffalo came from honoring a promise to a late friend, representing exactly who she was as a person. Despite her age and recent cancer treatment, she was sharp as a whip, recounting decades-old facts and stories. On the day of her visit, I wore my 'Notorious RBG' shirt under my blazer and had the honor of checking student IDs before Justice Ginsburg lectured in 106 O’Brian. I’ll never forget when she looked up at me and said, 'Oh, now that’s a nice shirt!' Her lifelong fight for gender equality will continue to inspire me and countless others for generations to come."
- Lindsay J. Gladney, Vice Dean for Admissions
"I met Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at an event immediately prior to her speaking engagement at Kleinhans. After patiently posing for pictures with the Boards who had worked together to bring her to Buffalo, she answered questions from the group. She talked about her incredible life and career arc, as well as her friendships and love of opera. I will forever be grateful for what I witnessed in those relatively unguarded moments-a woman who was accomplished beyond belief, an important and iconic jurist of the highest order, but, more than anything, a kind and grounded person, full of humor, humility, and humanity."
- Anne E. Joynt ’05, President of the UB Law Alumni Association
"It was a thrill and an honor to meet Justice Ginsburg. After the faculty's brief meeting with her, it occurred to me I could have asked a question about dissenting opinions, since I have written about dissents and have cited Justice Ginsburg's writings on the subject, and regretted not having done so. But now I am glad that instead of asking a question, I instead shared with her a more personal anecdote about her husband Marty (who taught at Georgetown Law where I attended law school) that exemplified his adoration for her."
- Professor Meredith Lewis
"It seems right that it was a friend that brought Justice Ginsburg to our City of Good Neighbors.
As we prepared for the visit of Justice Ginsburg, many of us gathered to read and reflect. We followed the arc of her career from her time as a strategic young advocate championing equal rights at the ACLU to her powerful decisions and dissents on the U.S. Supreme Court. Those preparing and those who attended the events received not only the gift of her time and the insights and memories she shared from the stage, but also the chance to connect with each other and rekindle friendships of our own. We were the best of ourselves that night. We showed off the collegial, connected, committed legal community we are. Mothers and sons, fathers and daughters. We proudly celebrated as we watched four women – the leaders from three bar associations and the dean of our law school join the justice on stage that night. We saw in Justice Ginsburg her passion for the law and her passion for life. May it stay with us, and may she live on through the connections in our community she nourished that night."
- Bridget M. O’Connell ’98, Immediate Past-President of the Bar Association of Erie County
"I remember Justice Ginsburg speaking of her history without bitterness or anger, but with resolve. She recognized there was still work to be done even if progress had been made. I keep this in mind today, to remember its the resolve of people like Justice Ginsburg that creates change. I hope I have that same resolve myself."
- Nicholas A Ramirez ’22
"Everyone knew her health was frail, which made her visit even more special. People of all political backgrounds wanted to see her because we knew it might be our last chance to witness a historic, iconic, and widely admired American figure. And she didn’t disappoint. Our only regret was that the evening had to end."
- Aaron M. Saykin ’13
"For me, seeing Justice Ginsburg in person at UB last fall was extremely powerful. Knowing how much she had gone through to get to where she was and hearing her discuss her stories about being a woman in the legal community truly inspired me. As a woman going into a predominantly male profession, hearing her talk about the bias she faced coming out of law school and the hurdles she had to jump over to make it to the U.S. Supreme Court made me recognize that it was not that long ago that women were an anomaly in the legal community. It was because of her and the amazing work she did that I was able to sit in on her talk in a classroom studying the law and that hopefully, I can make an impactful change, just as she did."
- Rachael Sparacino ’22
"It was a great day for Buffalo and UB when Justice Ginsburg came to visit, and it was a personal honor and privilege to be part of her visit. Her lifelong commitment to social justice for women and the LGBTQ community is unprecedented on the Supreme Court. It falls on each of us to carry on her dedication to civil rights. As a UB Law graduate and lawyer, I found RBG’s encyclopedic knowledge of Supreme Court precedent, unrivaled work ethic, and commitment to the advancement of human rights to be an inspiration. Seeing her in Buffalo is not something I will soon forget."
- Christopher A. Wightman ’99, Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council