Meet M. Elizabeth “Liz” Magill, the legal expert and longtime academic who will serve as the University’s ninth president.
Magill, who currently works as the University of Virginia’s Provost and Executive Vice President and previously served as dean of Stanford Law School, is known for her extensive experience and commitment to the field of law and leadership in higher education.
1. She clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
On working for the iconic Supreme Court Justice, Magill told UVA Magazine that she had “never worked harder in [her] life.”
She described working for Ginsburg as one of the most gratifying experiences she has had to explore her passion for the law. In a lunchtime Zoom chat with UVA students, Magill said the opportunity to work for Ginsburg made her feel like "a kid in a candy store."
Prior to her clerkship with Ginsburg, Magill clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Magill also formerly served U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad’s senior legislative assistant for energy and natural resources, according to Stanford News.
2. At Stanford, she expanded the Law School’s curriculum to include a unique experiential learning initiative, the Law and Policy Lab.
In the Policy Lab, students counsel real clients in policy areas such as copyright and patent reform, education, and energy policy, among others. Magill raised the largest gift from an alumnus to date at the school to fund the initiative.
She also played a critical role in revitalizing the school's faculty, which is responsible for the hiring of over one fourth of the school’s present faculty. Magill also presided over a university-wide task force on sexual assault policies and practices, Stanford News reported.
3. Magill’s passion for law and policy is shared by her family.
Growing up in North Dakota, her father was a trial lawyer appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
“My father was a very happy practicing lawyer and then a very happy judge,” she told Stanford Lawyer Magazine in 2012. “He’d talk about cases and juries — particularly the closing arguments and the drama of the trial.”
Two of her five siblings are also lawyers, as are two of her husband's siblings, according to Stanford Lawyer Magazine. Her husband, Leon Szeptycki, is also a lawyer — who earned his law degree in 1988 from Yale University, where Magill earned her undergraduate degree.
4. She had not always planned to pursue law, however.
In her undergraduate years at Yale, Magill studied history. She planned to pursue a Ph.D. in history and then a career in teaching after graduation.
Magill told the Stanford Lawyer Magazine that she became interested in pursuing a career in law after college, while serving as a legislative assistant to Sen. Kent Conrad. Her work with Conrad centered around energy policy and regulation research.
“I became interested in how government works on a day-to-day basis,” Magill told Stanford Lawyer Magazine.
5. She is also an avid fly fisher and loves the outdoors.
“Our family spent the very short break we had this year out west in Montana spending time in Yellowstone. I hesitate to say I am really a fly fisherwoman, as I am married to a very serious fly fisherman — my husband, Leon. He puts me to shame in skill, but perhaps not in passion and affection,” Magill told The Daily Pennsylvanian in an interview following the announcement.
She added that her family also enjoys hiking in the Blue Ridge mountains and spending time outdoors.