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Margaret Chon

Freshman year friends in U-Hall 1 teasingly called her “Um Chon.” Since then, Maggie has made some progress, and is currently the Associate Dean for Research and Centers, and the Donald & Lynda Horowitz Professor for the Pursuit of Justice, at Seattle University School of Law. She has spent the greater part of her career as an educator promoting social change and social justice through law.

Maggie majored in biology at Cornell. It was not a great fit but taught her a lot about the value of persistence and a little about the lac operon. After receiving her A.B. in 1979, she obtained a master’s degree in health services administration from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 1981, where she developed an interest in global health policy as well as ethnic studies. She cotaught the Asian American Experience as well as a seminar in health issues of developing countries. She participated in NIH-sponsored research before returning to school to receive her J.D. from Michigan in 1986. While in law school, she continued to teach ethnic studies and co-founded the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. Next Maggie worked in Philadelphia as a judicial clerk for federal judges and at Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis. She began her professional teaching career in 1991 at Syracuse University College of Law. In 1996, she joined the Seattle University faculty and has directed its Center for the Study of Justice in Society.

As a scholar, Maggie is particularly interested in promoting sustainable and human development such as access to education. It is deeply satisfying for her to be able to integrate her biology, public health and law backgrounds, although these dots were unconnected at first. In addition, she is a prolific scholar in the race and law area, and is a co-author of Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment.

Either you are part of the problem or you are part of the solution: what’s your contribution to life? This is the opening lyric to a Mother’s Day present given to her this year by her son Nick, 24. Her daughter Chloe, 20, is similarly passionate about social justice themes in spoken word poetry.

After arriving in Ithaca, Maggie missed Korean food and might have left to go back home to Buffalo except that she discovered the Cascadilla Creek path. Her Cornell friends, mentors and professors are among those who kept leading her down similar enchanted paths to where she is today. Maggie (or Um) still answers to different names, but being a distinguished alumna is a huge honor and shock. She is incredibly inspired by ‘79 alumni and deeply touched by this shout-out that many others also deserve.