By Jordan PollSeptember 13, 2016
The University of Michigan Law School has named Dr. Mary Frances Berry, '70, a recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award. Berry was presented the award during the Reunion Weekend festivities on September 16.
Berry is one the nation's leading activists for civil rights, gender equality, and social injustice. Her extensive career spans four decades and includes leadership roles in both higher education and government service.
As chancellor of the University of Colorado, Berry became the first black woman to head a major research university. She then became the principal education official of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, where she worked to improve access and quality education in our country's schools. She later was appointed to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission by President Jimmy Carter and went on to demand equal rights for all Americans as a member of the Commission over four presidential administrations. In addition, she served as chair of the Commission under President Bill Clinton.
Berry has authored 12 books on subjects ranging from the history of constitutional racism in America to child care and women's rights. In one of her most recent publications, We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family's Search for Home Across the Atlantic World, she offers a new angle for examining natural history through the lens of racial identity, demography, and migration.
In 2013 she was a recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award from the South African government for her role in organizing the Free South Africa Movement, which helped to end apartheid. Today, Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches American legal history.
Berry earned a BA from Howard University and holds a JD and PhD from the University of Michigan, in addition to an honorary doctor of laws degree.
"Dr. Berry represents the very best of Michigan Law. She has devoted her career to championing social justice, and we are honored to present her with the Distinguished Alumni Award," said Dean Mark West.
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