On Wednesday, November 19 at 10:30 am in Social Hall, the Trinity Community will “welcome home” one of our most distinguished alumnae, the Honorable Liana Fiol Matta, Class of 1967, now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. What an amazing moment this will be for Trinity as we gather to hear from this eminent jurist!
An English major at Trinity, this aspiring lawyer earned her J.D. degree magna cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law where she was also editor in chief of the law review, a top honor for any law student. She later earned the Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees from Columbia University.
After law school, Justice Fiol Matta held several significant positions with the Governor of Puerto Rico, and also pursued teaching at several law schools in Puerto Rico. In 1992, she was appointed to the Court of Appeals of Puerto Rico and then became Chief Judge of that court from 1996 to 2002. In 2004, Governor Sila Maria Calderon appointed her to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, and in 2014 Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla appointed her as Chief Justice.
You can read more about Chief Justice Fiol Matta in her biography on Trinity’s website.
Chief Justice Fiol Matta is another remarkable exemplar of Trinity’s mission in the education of women for leadership in society. Trinity Women do not sit on the sidelines; in just about every walk of life, we can find graduates of Trinity who are recognized leaders in their places of work and communities. When we consider Trinity’s relatively small size, this university’s leadership output is huge: from former Speaker of the House and now Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi ’62, to former Kansas Governor and former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ’70, to Chief Justice Fiol Matta and so many other judges, lawyers, politicians and leaders in the public square, Trinity alumnae play prominent roles across many jurisdictions.
Women continue to face mighty obstacles to advancement and leadership in our society. After the elections earlier this month, some pundits noted that the number of women in the Congress might actually reach 100 — is that really cause for celebration? Women are still less than 25% in the national legislature, still a minority in too many leadership positions in public and private life. Women are still more likely to be objectified than respected (ok, so it’s not scientific, but right now “Kardashian Butt” gets 52 million hits on Google, while “President Hillary” trails with 48 million… I’m just sayin’!)
In the mosh pit of popular educational culture, where big-name universities that can fill giant football stadiums each week get all the television exposure and recruiting advantage, while smaller woman-centered universities like Trinity simply fill classrooms day in and day out, the whole idea of an education that promotes women’s leadership and advancement may seem odd, though we would prefer the term “exceptional.”
Yes, Trinity is exceptional! Trinity does not simply follow the mob when it comes to our educational values and insistence that our mission remains urgent and important in a world that still presents too many barriers to women’s success.
Trinity’s success is clear in the lives and achievements of our graduates, not only those who become famous because of their positions, but even more so in the hard work and great dedication of those who are famous to the children they teach, the clients they serve, the patients they heal, the readers who marvel at their poetry or investigative journalism, the people whose lives become a little easier because of the advocacy and service our graduates deliver quietly and heroically each day in countless nonprofit organizations in communities around the globe.
As we welcome Chief Justice Fiol Matta on Wednesday, November 19, let’s also celebrate once more the many achievements of Trinity graduates who stand out in so many communities as true examples of servant leaders in a society that needs more of each.