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Sandra Day O'Connor: Her Life and Legacy: Biographical Timeline

On April 5, 2006, ASU Law was officially renamed the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. It was the first law school to be named after a woman.

Biographical Timeline


  • March 26, 1930:  Born in El Paso, Texas.
  • 1935 – 1946:  Attends Radford School for Girls; graduates from Austin High School while living with grandmother during the school year in El Paso.
  • 1946: Enters Stanford University.
  • 1950:  Earns a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics at Stanford.
  • 1952:  Graduates Magna Cum Laude and ranks third out of 102 students at Stanford Law School; marries John Jay O'Connor III (1930-2009) with whom she has three sons.
  • 1952 – 1953:  Serves as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California.
  • 1953 – 1957:  Practices as a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt, Germany.
  • 1958 – 1960: Practices law in Maryvale, located in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona.
  • 1965 – 1969:  Serves as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona.
  • 1969:  Appointed to fill vacant seat in the Arizona Senate
  • 1970:  Elected to the Arizona State Senate, serves two consecutive two-year terms.
  • 1973:  Becomes first woman to serve as a state Senate Majority Leader.
  • 1975 – 1979:  Elected as judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona.
  • 1979:  Appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by Democratic governor Bruce Babbitt.
  • July 7, 1981:  Nominated as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan.
  • September 9 – 11, 1981:  Supreme Court confirmation hearings with the U.S. Senate.
  • September 21, 1981:  Receives unanimous confirmation by the Senate.
  • September 25, 1981:  Sworn in as the first female Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.
  • 1982 Writes an opinion invalidating a women-only enrollment policy at a Mississippi State nursing school because it tends to perpetuate the stereotyped view of nursing as an exclusively women's jobMississippi University for Women, et al., v. Hogan
  • 1996:  Writes the majority opinion in a 5-4 decision to restrict affirmative action policies and voting districts that are created to boost political power of minorities. Shaw v. Reno

  • 1999:  Writes the majority ruling opinion in the 5-4 sexual harassment ruling that public school districts that receive federal funds can be held liable when they are "deliberately indifferent" to the harassment of one student by another. Davis v. Monroe Cnty. Bd. of Ed.

  • 2000: Votes with the majority in a 5-4 decision that strikes down state laws banning the medical procedure that critics call "partial-birth" abortion. Stenberg v. Carhart​

  • December 2000:  Votes in the majority to end the recount in Florida which leads to George W. Bush becoming president of the United States. O'Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy are the only justices who do not attach their names to either a concurring or dissenting opinion in the case. Bush v. Gore

  • July 1, 2005:  Announces retirement from Supreme Court. 
  • 2005 - 2007:  Honorary co-chair of the bipartisan American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Civic Education and the Separation of Powers.​
  • Spring 2006:  Became a Distinguished Jurist in Residence at the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law where she teaches a week long course called "The Supreme Court" every spring semester. 
  • November 17, 2006:  Arizona State University renamed its law school the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
  • February 2009:  Launched Our Courts, a website created to offer interactive civics lessons to students and teachers. The initiative expanded, becoming iCivics in May 2010, and continues to offer free lesson plans, games, and interactive video games for middle and high school educators.
  • August 12, 2009:  Awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
  • 2009: Founded the 501(c)3 non-profit organization, O'Connor House, dedicated to solving complex issues through civil discourse and collaborative action.  In March 2015 O'Connor House, became the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute. O'Connor serves as Founder and Advisor to the O'Connor Institute.

  • 2011: Becomes the Co-Chair of the National Advisory Board at the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD). The institute was created at the University of Arizona after the tragic shooting of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, that killed 6 people and wounded 13 others.

  • April 2013: The Board of Directors of Justice at Stake, a national judicial reform advocacy organization, announced that O'Connor would be joining the organization as Honorary Chair.

  • September 25, 2018: In recognition of the day Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States and because she has distinguished herself as an extraordinary Arizonan and American who impacted our nation’s history for all future generations, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared September 25, 2018, as Sandra Day O'Connor Day.

  • October 23, 2018: Sandra Day O'Connor announced in a letter that she is in the early stages of what is likely Alzheimer's disease and is retiring from public life.

  • July 18, 2019: The O'Connor House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. O'Connor lived in the home from 1958 until 1981.

Lazy B Ranch - 1940

In the West in remote areas where what you see is this enormous heaven and what a small place mankind has in that space. But you hope that what you see also lets you exist and be yourself despite the small speck that you are in the overall scheme of things.

- Sandra Day O'Connor

The Four Justices

On October 28, 2013, the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. celebrated the arrival of Nelson Shanks’s The Four Justices, a tribute to the four female justices who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The work is monumental; it measures approximately seven feet by five-and-a-half feet. Only men had sat on the bench of the Supreme Court until President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981. After O’Connor, the next woman to receive an appointment was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a nominee of President Bill Clinton in 1993. President Barack Obama appointed Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Shanks’s oil on canvas painting is on loan to the National Portrait Gallery from Ian and Annette Cumming.