January 2020 Feature


Katharine V. Alexander, long-time friend of Santa Clara University School of Law and beloved wife of the late former Santa Clara Law Dean George J. Alexander, passed away peacefully on November 21, 2019. Katharine, or “Kati” as she was known by many, was 85 years old.

“The Santa Clara Law community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni have all benefited from many years of generous support by Katherine and George Alexander,” said Anna Han, interim dean of Santa Clara Law. “We are grateful for the time, dedication, inspiration, vision, mentoring, and financial gifts that this couple shared with our community. They have made a profound impact on our law school that will continue for generations to come.”

A champion for social justice her entire life, Kati earned her undergraduate degree with honors from Goucher College in 1956 and studied at the University of Geneva and the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales from 1954 to 1955. In 1959, she earned her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was one of only three women in her graduating class.

For 25 years, as a Deputy Public Defender for Santa Clara County, Kati tenaciously represented criminal defendants in jury trials and pretrial proceedings, including defendants charged with aggravated felonies and murder cases where the death penalty was charged. Relentlessly believing in her clients and in the rules of due process, she won an acquittal or reduction of charges for every client she represented in a jury trial.

Kati collaborated for a lifetime with her late husband, George J. Alexander, to make social justice a reality in their community and beyond. The former East San Jose Community Law Center was renamed in honor of Kati and George in 2004. Today, the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center (KGACLC) offers pro bono advice and representation in several areas including workers’ rights, consumer rights, and immigration rights, and it provides Santa Clara Law students with priceless hands-on training and client interaction. Earlier this year, KGACLC—located on The Alameda a few miles from the SCU campus—celebrated its 25th anniversary. In those 25 years, the Law Center has served more than 10,000 people through its clinics and workshops, and given more than 2,000 Santa Clara Law students the opportunity to practice their law skills while serving others. The estimated market value of the free legal services provided over the last quarter of a century is more than $60 million.

“Katharine Alexander exuded a warmth that showed genuine care and concern for the faculty, staff, students, and clients at the Law Center,” said Deborah Moss-West, executive director of KGACLC. “With the incredible generosity of Katharine and George Alexander, the Law Center now serves more than 1,000 clients each year and educates the next generation of law students committed to social justice—what a legacy! We are forever thankful and grateful.”

In 2008, the Alexanders established the Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize, designed to bring recognition to lawyers who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity. During the past 12 years, the prize has recognized and supported the courageous human rights work of such recipients as Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama; Almudena Bernabeu, lead prosecutor against Salvadoran officials for the massacre of Jesuit priests in 1989; and Jessica Jackson JD ‘11, national director and cofounder of DreamCorps #cut50, a bipartisan initiative to reduce the prison population by 50 percent.

Most recently, Kati endowed the Katharine & George Alexander Professorship of Law in honor of her late husband. The professorship supports student-centered education focusing on the potential for the law to promote access to and equality within the legal system. In 2015, Michelle Oberman, a nationally recognized professor of women’s health and the law, was honored as the inaugural Katharine & George Alexander Professor of Law at a campus-wide ceremony with Kati and several members of her family in attendance.

Oberman, who has taught at Santa Clara Law since 2004, expressed her gratitude for the inspiration that Katharine and George offered to so many. “Katherine and George dedicated their lives to the compassionate and pragmatic goal of lessening the problems that affect the most vulnerable among us,” said Oberman. “In setting an example that is at once idealistic and realistic, they have inspired me (and countless others) to strive always to recognize and maximize my ability to be a force for the good.”

In 2016, the Santa Clara Law Alumni Association honored Kati with the Amicus Award at its annual Celebration of Achievement Gala. The Amicus Award is given to a true friend of the Law School who has demonstrated the highest level of leadership in the legal profession and the community, and who has significantly advanced the mission and reputation of Santa Clara Law.

Kati is survived by her children, Suzi Alexander (and her husband Gary Stolzoff) and Chip Alexander (and his wife Laurie Alexander), and her three grandchildren, Simone, Sam, and Kate.

Donations in Kati’s honor can be made to the Katharine and George Alexander Law Center online here:  https://law.scu.edu/kgaclc/