Friday, May 5, 2017

Chris Zawisza: A Heartfelt Farewell

From Prof. Chris Zawisza upon her retirement from the University of Memphis:

As you make your way to Denver, I wish you a very successful conference.  I won’t be joining you this year, unfortunately.  I am retiring after 40 years of practicing law and 20 years of teaching clinically.  This community has been a source of strength, ideas, inspiration, support, and fellowship during years of calm, years of change, and now tumultuous times.  As I reflect back on my times as a social justice advocate, I realize that our community has weathered tumultuous times before.  Some of us remember the Vietnam era with the tear gas, the riots, the demonstrations, and the soul searching about our place in the world.  I remember well the debates about working inside the system or working outside the system and what each entailed.  I remember choosing to work inside the system by taking a job as a Management Intern with the then Department of HEW (now HHS) and then sitting idly at my desk watching the Nixon impeachment hearings.  At the very least that era motivated me to go to law school and also gave me the savings to pay for law school!  I remember our anxieties and fears as the Legal Services Corporation funding was substantially cut during the Reagan years along with other safety net programs.  And I remember well having to find a new home when Congress prohibited legal services attorneys from doing class actions and legislative advocacy.  That era led me to a home in clinical legal education which has been a true joy!

As a community, we have found that hard times bring out the best in us.  We summon up our creativity, courage, and resilience and find new ways to serve clients, organizations, neighborhoods, and society.  I’m sure we will forge a way forward.  Thank you for all you have given me.

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