YWCA Women of Achievement: Lawyer, professor Mary Pat Treuthart puts ‘passion into practice.
Thu., March 16, 2023
Mary Pat Treuthart thought she might go into social work until a college externship at a legal services office in New Jersey turned her thoughts to a law degree.
“I wanted to go to law school and I wanted to work for legal services and I did,” she said. “I had been really inspired by the people I worked with in college.”
Treuthart’s decades as a professor at the Gonzaga University School of Law and her dedication to social justice have earned her the 2023 YWCA Women of Achievement award in education. She and the other winners were honored at a luncheon March 9 at the Davenport Grand Hotel.
She grew up in Illinois until moving to Pennsylvania as a teenager. After high school, she enrolled in Rutgers Women’s College, then dropped out for a year to work so she could earn enough money to finish school. She worked for McCrory’s Five and Dime, a national chain, in a facility that might compare to an Amazon fulfillment center today.
Her externship at legal services put her in contact with people who needed help with everything from family law to housing. During law school, she held a job that had her representing people with mental disabilities, which cemented her desire to be involved in social justice legal work.
“It just seemed to be the logical thing to do,” she said. “I just felt like I wanted to feel good about the work that I was doing.”
After she earned her law degree, she clerked for a family law judge for a year, then took a job at Warren County Legal Services in New Jersey. She started out as a staff attorney, then was the program director for four years before she quit.
“They kept defunding legal services,” she said. “The job became much more focused on administration and funding than I had anticipated.”
She taught at a law school in Nevada for two years before landing at Gonzaga in 1989.
“One of the reasons I came to Gonzaga was its social justice work,” she said. “It really resonated with me.”
She enjoys the mix of teaching and clinical work that she has at Gonzaga, but she hasn’t stopped here. She’s been involved with Disability Rights Washington, which provides legal services to people with disabilities, since 1990. She’s on the board of directors of the University Legal Assistance Program and co-founded a domestic violence mini-clinic. She’s also been involved in other organizations, including the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, the YWCA and Habitat for Humanity.
A lot of Treuthart’s work has focused on women’s rights, and she was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Washington Amnesty International “Stop Violence Against Women” campaign. She has regularly taught undergraduate classes on women’s rights and added a service learning component in her Women in the Law class.
Shortly after moving to Spokane, she met and married Dan Webster, who worked as a movie reviewer and features writer for The Spokesman-Review for decades. That helped keep her in Spokane, Treuthart said.
“When you’re a professor, your legacy is your students,” she said. “I can rejoice in their accomplishments and that they’ve gone out and flourished. I’m always inspired by their passion and compassion. That’s what keeps me going.”
Working as a professor also suits her schedule. Treuthart describes herself as a night owl and thinks nothing of firing off emails at 3 a.m.
“Teaching suits my temperament very well,” she said.
Law School Dean Jacob Rooksby said he was pleased to learn of Treuthart’s award.
“She’s been a great mentor to students interested in a career in social justice,” he said. “She’s a person who really lives our law school motto of passion into practice. It sets the standard for our students.”
Treuthart’s personality also has her avoiding the spotlight, to the point that there were only nine people at her wedding. Though it is uncomfortable to be recognized for her work publicly, Treuthart said she’s honored to be included in such a group of impressive women.
“I’m really appreciative of receiving this honor,” she said. “That was a nice surprise.”
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