Patricia Butler, an alumna of Agnes Scott College and one of the first women to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, has left $2.1 million to the college to help support study abroad, student research and internships.
Butler, an attorney, philanthropist and historian, died in 2009 at age 101. The $2.1-million gift from her estate will go toward the financial support of Agnes Scott’s Agnes Advantage Award program that provides a $3,000 award that students can use to study abroad or for an internship or mentored research experience beginning in the summer after a student’s sophomore year.
“Pat Butler was one of the most extraordinary women I have had the privilege to meet,” said Elizabeth Kiss, president of Agnes Scott. “She combined fierce intelligence with great elegance and charm. She wore her remarkable accomplishments lightly and even at 100 had a mischievous twinkle in her eye.”
Her generosity toward Agnes Scott and its students is as exceptional as her life and career. She is truly one of our great Agnes Scott role models.”
A native New Yorker, Butler was one of only two Catholic students at Agnes Scott in the 1920s, but being in the minority was never a challenge from which she shied. After graduating from Agnes Scott with majors in English and history, she enrolled at Emory Law School, where she was the sole female among her 30-member law school class. Her law degree didn’t earn her a position at first (there were very few female attorneys at that time), so she instead volunteered at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and worked on research projects for the American Law Institute.
With the help of a supportive Emory professor and a lot of perseverance, she landed her first job with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in 1935. Butler went on to be one of the first women to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, taking over the Johnson v. Shaughnessy case in 1949 while the previous attorney addressed an emergency. With only 10 days to prepare, she won the case.
As a member of the U.S. Department of Justice, Butler served during six presidential administrations and 16 attorney generals, including the late Robert Kennedy.
Among many career accomplishments, she helped found the Supreme Court Historical Society with former Chief Justice Warren Burger, was a founding editor of what is now the Federal Register and was the founding secretary of the American Bar Association section on administrative law.
Butler was a cherished member of the Agnes Scott community and a generous and active alumna.
Butler took a special interest in nurturing the development of strong women at Agnes Scott. She set up The Patricia Collins Butler Endowment for the Center for Writing and Speaking to help the college’s public speaking program become one of the best in the country. She also helped create The Patricia Collins Butler Center, a suite in the Alston Campus Center devoted to providing a comfortable place with up-to-date technology for commuting students to study while on campus.
Butler’s latest gift helped Agnes Scott end its fiscal year with $11.65 million in new gifts and pledges — the college’s best fundraising year since 2003. An impressive 48 percent of alumnae made gifts, one of the best years ever for alumnae participation in Agnes Scott’s history. The Fund for Agnes Scott, the college’s annual fund, received $2.75 million in contributions — another record, the most ever collected.
Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty and metropolitan Atlanta location – offering myriad cultural and experiential learning opportunities. A diverse and growing residential community of scholars, this highly selective liberal arts and sciences college is known for its dynamic and challenging intellectual community. Encouraging students to engage the wider world through study abroad and presenting its curriculum with international context, Agnes Scott College delivers on its promise: The World. For Women.