Dean Emerita Barbara Aronstein Black '55 Receives Distinguished Columbian in Teaching Award

New York, January 6, 2015—Dean Emerita Barbara Aronstein Black ’55, the first woman dean of Columbia Law School and any Ivy League law school, was honored as the Distinguished Columbian in Teaching at a Jan. 2 ceremony.

Dean Emerita Barbara Aronstein Black '55 is honored
by faculty colleagues at a special meeting on Jan. 23.
Gillian Lester, Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, presided over the presentation ceremony in D.C., which was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. Dean Lester is the second woman to lead Columbia Law School. She told the audience of faculty, alumni, and friends that Black’s appointment as the Law School’s dean in 1986 was “an historic academic milestone.” A noted legal historian and authority on law in Colonial America, Black served as dean until 1991.
“Front-page headlines announced the appointment of Barbara Aronstein Black as Columbia Law School’s 10th dean,” said Dean Lester, who became the Law School’s 15th dean on Jan. 1. “Barbara had joined the faculty of her alma mater just two years earlier.”
Under the leadership of Black, the George Welwood Murray Professor Emerita of Legal History, Columbia Law School launched its first Foundation Curriculum for first-year students, added new courses in gender and family law, and cemented its reputation for having some of the best corporate law scholars in the nation. The Law School also increased the presence of women on the faculty and within the student body. When Black was a first-year student, women made up just 15 percent of the class.
Black during her time as dean,
in an undated photo.
By the fall of 1987, that number had increased to 45 percent, the highest in the Law School’s history at the time.
Before joining the Columbia Law School faculty in 1984, Black taught there and in the history department of Yale University, where she had earned her Ph.D. in history in 1975. She has also served as the president of the American Legal History Society and on the board of trustees for the Supreme Court Historical Society. In 2006, Black was featured in a New York City Bar Association documentary, “Changing Lives: Pioneering New York Women Attorneys.” The film highlighted the lives of women whose accomplishments have had a significant impact on the development of the law and on the legal profession.
Presented annually by the Columbia Law School Association, the Distinguished Columbian in Teaching Award honors graduates who, through excellence in teaching, scholarship and writing, as well as achievements in a chosen field, have brought distinction to the Law School and the faculties on which the individual has served. Last year’s award recipient was Stanley Lubman ’58, a renowned Chinese legal studies scholar.
Black's colleagues on the faculty honored her during a special faculty meeting at the Law School on Jan. 23.
Black accepts the Distinguished Columbian in Teaching Award from Dean Gillian Lester.