A gift to the OU College of Law will establish a distinguished chair position in the college’s faculty, named in honor of civil rights pioneer and OU Law alumni Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher.
Fisher became the first Black student admitted to OU Law in 1949, according to a press release. However, due to the Oklahoma statutes prohibiting white and Black people from attending class together, it took a three-year battle stretching up to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep her in school. Her landmark case laid the groundwork for the elimination of segregation in public education nationwide.
After law school, Fisher practiced law in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and later joined the faculty at Langston University — a historically Black university in Langston, Oklahoma, according to the release. In 1992, she was appointed to the OU Board of Regents. Fisher died in 1995, leaving a legacy impacting not only Oklahoma, but the nation.
According to the release, less than a year ago — on the 70th anniversary of Fisher’s law school admission — OU Law launched an effort to establish a chair in her honor and to recruit outstanding faculty in civil rights, race and justice in law. Since its establishment in September 2019, almost 80 donors of all different ages, races and backgrounds have come together to contribute close to $100,000 to the fund.
“By recognizing Dr. Sipuel Fisher and the meaning of her battle, this endowment recognizes the power that love, conviction and action hold,” OU Law interim Dean Katheleen Guzman said in the release. “It could not come at a more opportune time and will help further OU Law’s mission to provide a well-rounded education and experience for the next generation of lawyers and leaders.”
An anonymous donor completed the fund in September by donating $910,000, making the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Chair in Civil Rights, Race and Justice in Law a reality, the release read, and to further support the cause, the donor has pledged to match up to $90,000 of continuing donations to the fund.
“We are so grateful to our generous alumni and to the particular efforts of the OU Black Law Students Association and professor Melissa Mortazavi for her vision in creating and supporting the fund,” Guzman said in the release. “Without their support, our effort to recruit a national expert in this field would have been delayed given our public health crisis and budgetary constraints.”
OU President Joseph Harroz expressed his recognition of the impact of this gift to the university's law students.
“This exceptional gift to establish an endowed chair in Dr. Fisher’s honor ensures that her legacy will live on for generations,” Harroz said in the release. “As future lawyers, our law students will be obligated to uphold justice and protect the rights of all. Having a leading faculty expert in civil rights law will further instill the importance of this undertaking.”
More information and a link to donate can be found on the OU College of Law website.