Alumna to join Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey
Patricia McGowan Wald '48, seen here with Janet Tso '12 at her induction into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame in 2011, became the first woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1979.
Patricia McGowan Wald ’48 has been named one of 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
1979 she became the first woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The other 2013 honorees include former President Bill Clinton, country music legend Loretta Lynn, broadcast giant Oprah Winfrey, baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, feminist publisher Gloria Steinem, former college basketball coach Dean Smith and former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana. Former Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and astronaut Sally Ride were among those honored posthumously.
In a White House statement President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world,”
The White House also referred to Wald as “one of the most respected appellate judges of her generation.”
A native of Torrington, Conn., she graduated from Connecticut College as a Winthrop Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She attended Yale Law School after graduation and became the first woman associate hired by the storied law firm Arnold, Fortas & Porter in Washington, D.C. In 1972 she received the College Medal, Connecticut College’s highest honor.
She later served as assistant attorney general for legislative affairs under President Jimmy Carter, who appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals, where she served until 1999, including a stint as chief judge from 1986 to 1991.
After retiring from the U.S. courts, Wald held several high-profile positions. She served on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for two years, was appointed to the Iraq Intelligence Commission in 2004 to help investigate U.S. intelligence surrounding the beginning of the Iraq War and, most recently, was named to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board by President Obama in 2012.
In 2008, Legal Times honored her as a “Visionary” for breaking through barriers during her distinguished law career. In 2011, she was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.