The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: An Academic Scholar

The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: An Academic Scholar

Melissa W.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last week at the age of 87 after a long battle with cancer and made history today by becoming the first woman to lie in state at the US Capitol. As an American jurist serving on The Supreme Court from 1993-2020, RBG spent much of her career as an advocate for women’s rights, gender equality, and civil rights and became a bit of a celebrity due to her short-stature, quiet demeanor, and strong dissents. Her educational career was also quite impressive and paved the way for her court accomplishments!


RBG credits her mother for much of her educational success and drive, sharing that she regularly took her to their local library and was very involved in her education until her death to cancer a day before Ruth Bader graduated high school. After high school, Ruth studied at Cornell University and graduated at the top of her class with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government in 1954. Soon after, she married her husband, Martin, and began studying at Harvard Law School in 1956 where Martin was also a student. Ginsburg was one of only nine women in a class of over 500 and at one point found herself fighting sleep deprivation while caring for their young daughter, nursing the health of Martin who was diagnosed with cancer, and keeping up with her and Martin’s studies, often taking notes for him and writing his papers when he was undergoing treatment.

After a family move to New York City, she transferred to Columbia Law School where she became the first woman to be named on two renowned law reviews, the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review, and graduated top of her class. Ginsburg recalled inequities throughout her educational career, like being denied access to a Harvard library because she was a woman, and though it limited her in many ways, she proved it never held her back. 

Teaching Career

Never straying far from education, Ginsburg worked as an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Law where she hid her second pregnancy by wearing her mother-in-law’s baggy clothes for fear of her contract not being renewed before becoming tenured in 1969. She later became the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School. In 1993, Ginsburg delivered a James Madison Lecture, a well-respected lecture series at the New York University School of Law meant “to enhance the appreciation of civil liberty and strengthen the sense of national purpose.” Additionally, RBG spent two years in Sweden at Lund University conducting research and co-authoring a book on civil procedure and spent a year as a fellow at Stanford University in their behavioral sciences program.

Honor Societies/Sororities

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a proud member of both Phi Kappa Phi (excellence in all academic disciplines) and Alpha Epsilon Phi (a Jewish sorority).

Honorary Degrees

Ruth Bader Ginsburg holds honorary degrees from the following:

Vermont Law School Georgetown University
 DePaul University Brooklyn Law School
Hebrew Union College Rutgers University
Amherst College Lewis and Clark College
Radcliffe College New York University
Columbia University Smith College
Long Island University University of Illinois
Brandeis University Wheaton College
Jewish Theological Seminary of America George Washington University Law School
Northwestern University University of Michigan
Brown University Yale University
Johns Hopkins University John Jay College of Criminal Justice
University of Pennsylvania Willamette University
Princeton University Harvard University
American University Lund University (Sweden)


Just to recap, here’s a list of the schools/universities/honor societies RBG attended, was employed at, or associated with during her career (not counting the above honorary degrees!):

Cornell University
Harvard Law School
Columbia Law School
New York University School of Law
Rutgers University School of Law
Lund University
Stanford University
Phi Kappa Phi
Alpha Epsilon Phi


Few, if any, have a resume quite like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman who fought for and championed women’s rights her entire career. She left her mark and touched the lives of so many and we are grateful for her dedicated service right to the very end! We're honestly wondering if she ever slept!

Are you a fellow member of Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Epsilon Phi, or any of the aforementioned universities? Do you have any RBG stories/facts? Let us know in the comments!


Cover photo from The Harvard Gazette

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