In 2015, Loretta Lynch entered the history books when she became the first African American woman to serve as the U.S. attorney general. In this position, Lynch oversaw more than 100,000 employees across numerous agencies and offices. She also supervised the DOJ’s major litigating divisions, including Antitrust, Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, Environmental, and Tax. Throughout her career, Lynch has excelled in the profession of law, both in private practice and the public sector—including three presidential appointments. She began practicing law in New York, becoming a federal prosecutor in 1990, and later rising to become head of the Eastern District office. From 2003 to 2005, she also served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Additionally, Lynch has been recognized by numerous organizations, including Duke University, which awarded her with an honorary degree in 2017.
By the time Lynch arrived at Harvard University in 1977, her interest in the U.S. legal system had already been piqued. As a child, Lynch had spent hours with her father, watching court proceedings in the courthouse of Durham, North Carolina. A top student, Lynch made sure not to squander her opportunity in the Ivy League. At Harvard, she excelled in the classroom while balancing her social life as a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. In 1981, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and American literature from Harvard. Lynch then stayed at Harvard to pursue her dreams of practicing law. At Harvard Law, she was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. In 1984, her studies were complete and she graduated with a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard.
Since graduating, Lynch has remained a leader and active member of the Harvard community. In 2018, for instance, she returned to her alma mater to celebrate a historic milestone: the 65th anniversary of women first graduating from Harvard Law School. Previously, she was also back on campus in 2017 as part of Harvard Law School's bicentennial summit, taking part in a public event with a former classmate, Annette Gordon-Reed, the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School. The two women used the opportunity to not only look back on their time together at the law school, but to discuss the struggles of women and Black members of the legal profession. Lynch was also the keynote speaker in another 2017 conference organized by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She told students about her time at Harvard Law, working in the legal aid bureau, and how she had the opportunity to help everyday people with their problems, including a woman she helped to get a divorce. “As you look at the rule of law, it’s not just words on the page. It’s the impact on people’s lives.”