The Santa Clara Law community mourns the loss of our retired colleague, Professor Nancy Wright JD ’80, who passed away on December 20 from illness. “We shall miss her warmth and smiles,” said Interim Dean Anna Han, a longtime colleague and friend. “Nancy was a champion of social justice and our many programs stand in testament to her work at our school.”
A graduate of UC Berkeley and Santa Clara Law, Nancy was well known for her interest and involvement in social justice organizations in the local community, and she often did pro bono work in consumer protection and prisoner’s and children’s rights, including service on the board of Fresh Lifelines for Youth, a non-profit organization that helps at-risk youth lead productive lives.
Nancy served Santa Clara Law in numerous ways during her 30-year tenure. She joined the faculty in 1984, and served as placement director for five years. In 1990, she became director of the first-year Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing Program. She co-directed Santa Clara Law’s summer programs in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Oxford, Geneva/Strasbourg, and Sydney. With her husband, Law Professor Eric Wright, Nancy co-founded the East San Jose Community Law Center (now called the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center), and later served as co-project director there. In 2014, as part of the Alexander Community Law Center’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, Eric and Nancy Wright received the Founders’ Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their pivotal role in launching the center. A beloved teacher, Nancy was chosen as Law Professor of the Year numerous times. She retired from Santa Clara Law in 2014.
Prior to joining Santa Clara Law, Wright spent three years as a teaching fellow and lecturer-in-law at Stanford Law School, teaching Public Interest Representation and Moot Court, and coordinating Stanford’s externship program. Stanford recognized her achievements with the creation of the Eric and Nancy Wright Professor of Clinical Education. Before earning her JD, she spent six years working as a juvenile probation officer dealing primarily with dependent and delinquent youngsters in foster-home placements.
Nancy was also a world traveler and an accomplished photographer, and her subjects reflected her personality. In addition to scenery, her favorite subject was people from all over the world, reflecting her genuine care of others, especially children. Her photograph of a group of elephants was used on the cover of a Wildlife Conservation Society brochure, and later, her picture of a Papua New Guinea tribesman placed in the top five out of over 5,100 photographs entered in the Picture Our World Photo Contest sponsored by the San Jose Mercury News. See a selection of her photographs here.
Many other Santa Clara Law colleagues shared remembrances of Nancy. “Nancy and I were next door neighbors for years,” said Michelle Oberman, professor. “I came to truly cherish Nancy as a mentor and role model—the compassion she showed her students, the patient, optimistic tone of her feedback, the passionate urgency with which she rallied support for so many causes, and the gentle, loving way she showed up in times of crisis.”
“Nancy was a gem with a ready smile, a zest for life, and a keen intellect,” said Catherine Sandoval, associate professor. “She brought light to every room she was in and showed kindness to everyone she met. She was a pillar of Santa Clara University and the legal community.”
“Nancy championed the social justice program and our students in so, so many ways,” said Stephanie Wildman, professor emerita at Santa Clara Law. “And she lived her life following the mantra ‘only kindness matters.’”
“What a great loss for our Santa Clara Law family and the world,” said SCU Provost Lisa Kloppenberg, who served as dean of Santa Clara Law from 2013-19. “Nancy loved teaching and her students. She fought for justice always. She had such a big, loving heart.”
Nancy is survived by her husband and fellow Santa Clara Law faculty member, Eric Wright; daughters Kristin Millich, Stacy Millich JD ’93, Kyra Millich JD ’01, and Elisabeth “Lisa” Millich JD ’00, and stepdaughter, Amy Wright.
Read her obituary here, written by her daughter.