Former President Jimmy Carter is presented with the O’Connor Justice Prize on Jan. 27 at the Arizona Biltmore by (from left) former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor; Barbara Barrett, former ambassador to Finland; and Patricia Wald, former chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Barrett and her husband, former Intel CEO Dr. Craig Barrett, have donated $3 million to Arizona State University to sustain the prize in perpetuity. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
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Past honorees include Ana Palacio, the first woman to serve as foreign affairs minister of Spain and former senior vice president and general counsel of the World Bank Group who is an ardent defender and protector of law, human rights and press freedom; and Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, United Nations high commissioner for human rights, the first non-white woman to serve on the High Court of South Africa and a successful advocate for establishing mass rape as a form of genocide.
The most recent prize winner is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who accepted the award at the O’Connor Justice Prize Dinner, a formal event held at the Arizona Biltmore on Jan. 27. At the event, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Dean Douglas Sylvester announced the Barretts’ philanthropic gift, which meets one of the college’s Campaign ASU 2020 goals: to sustain the prize in perpetuity.
“This extraordinary gift will help secure the O’Connor Justice Prize as an enduring tribute to the rule of law and those dedicated to promoting it,” said Sylvester. “Since its inception in 2014, the awards dinner has become a signature event for ASU Law, drawing honorees and dignitaries from around the world. We are so grateful that the Barretts’ generosity will ensure the viability of this world-class event into the future.”
Ambassador and Dr. Barrett are unwavering supporters of ASU. Among their donations is a gift — the largest made to the university at its time — that endowed Barrett, The Honors College, which a New York Times op-ed piece called the “gold standard” in honors education. She and five other Campaign ASU 2020 volunteer principals have collectively contributed more than $50 million to ASU since the start of the campaign.
“The spirit of ASU inspires me and so many others as ASU takes the lead as the New American University,” said Ambassador Barrett. “Justice O’Connor personifies energy, team spirit, hard work, talent and dedication. ASU’s O’Connor Justice Prize annually honors Arizona’s foremost jurist, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, while it simultaneously celebrates another of the world’s leaders who also is dedicated to the values of justice, human rights and the rule of law.”
The ambassador’s connection to Justice O’Connor began at the Arizona State Legislature when then-Arizona State Majority Leader Sandra Day O’Connor encouraged then-intern Barrett to attend law school. Years later, O’Connor administered the oath of office to Barrett as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Finland.
Like the initial two O’Connor Justice Prize recipients, Barrett and O’Connor are women of “firsts.” The former was the first female deputy director of the Federal Aviation Administration, the first female Republican to run for governor of Arizona and reportedly the first female civilian to land in an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier. The latter was the first woman on the country’s highest court, serving from 1981 until her retirement in 2006.