Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent some of her formative years at Columbia University.

She graduated at the top of her law school class in 1959. She returned in 1972 as a law professor, becoming the first woman to be tenured at the law school.


What You Need To Know

  • A student memorial to Justice Ginsburg formed on the steps of Low Library

  • Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School at the top of her class in 1959

  • Ginsburg became the first tenured female professor at the law school in 1972


“I’m a lawyer as well and she’s definitely inspired me,” said Gigi Parris, who practices family law. “She’s notorious RBG. She’s an amazing inspiration,” she added.

A student memorial outside Low Library offers signs of the Columbia community’s connection to the justice. Photos shared by a a student show a notebook that collects handwritten tributes from students.

“For me, she left a legacy behind that I think inspires all Columbia students and even female Columbia students to go for our dreams, be powerful, and I think that’s the legacy she left behind,” said Columbia University sophomore Helena Botero. 

“In Columbia Law School’s long and venerable history, I am hard pressed to think of an individual who more singularly elevated our collective aspirations than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” said law school dean Gillian Lester, in a Tweet. 

Ginsburg taught classes on sex discrimination for eight years before she was named to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. President Bill Clinton nominated her to the US Supreme Court in 1993. 

“The biggest concern right now is who is going to replace her,” said Dalourny Nemorin, a public defender who handles criminal appeals. 

“From the bench, she ruled amazingly on a lot of progressive things. As we think of the future of abortion rights and women’s rights and just generally, losing Ginsburg and who is going take that place is scary to me,” Namorin explained. 

Columbia published some of Ginsburg’s private papers two years ago in celebration of her 25th year on the Supreme Court.

One document is a letter Ginsburg wrote in 1971 when she was a law professor at Rutgers, and had received a letter from Columbia requesting donations. She suggested revisions that “might stimulate more female graduates to respond favorably to your fund appeals.” In red markup, she noted that graduates and professors could be referred to as his and her.