April 20, 2009
Former Dean of Harvard Law School and current U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan ’86 will be the 2009 Class Day speaker at HLS. Selected by this year’s Class Marshals, Kagan will address graduates on June 3 as part of Class Day.
“As the first female Dean of Harvard Law School, Elena Kagan demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to, and enthusiasm for, the enhancement of student life at HLS during her six-year term,” the Class Marshals—Bridgette L. Hylton, Daniella Genet, Megha Parekh, and Trevor Cox—wrote in an email to the class of 2009 announcing the selection. “We could not think of a more appropriate individual to address our Class on this momentous day, as we each leave the Law School and embark on our own careers…We are confident that Solicitor General Kagan's career will continue to follow the remarkable path that it has taken thus far, and it is with great enthusiasm that we look forward to her parting words for our class.”
Kagan was confirmed by the Senate as Solicitor General on March 19, 2009. Nominated by President Barack Obama ’91 in early January, she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing on February 10.
Currently on a leave of absence from the HLS faculty, Kagan is the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law. She first came to Harvard Law School as a visiting professor in 1999 and became professor of law in 2001. She has taught administrative law, constitutional law, civil procedure, and seminars on issues involving the separation of powers. She was appointed dean of the law school in 2003.
During her deanship, Kagan became popular among students for her efforts to enhance and improve student life at HLS. She also led numerous initiatives, including a headline-making reform of the curriculum, an impressive expansion of the faculty, a major initiative to support public service, and the design of a new building complex now under construction.
From 1995 to 1999, Kagan served in the White House, first as associate counsel to the president (1995-96) and then as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council (1997-99). In those positions she played a key role in the executive branch’s formulation, advocacy, and implementation of law and policy in areas ranging from education to crime to public health.
Kagan graduated from Princeton University in 1981. She earned a master’s in philosophy from Oxford and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. Kagan clerked for Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. She later practiced law as an associate at Williams & Connolly, and taught law on the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School.