Washington, D.C. (November 28, 2022) — Kevin R. Johnson, Dean and Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies at University of California, Davis School of Law, is the inaugural recipient of the Michael A. Olivas Award for Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Mentoring in the Legal Academy, a joint recognition by five sections of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).
“I am incredibly honored to receive this award,” Johnson said. “I am especially touched because Michael was a friend, colleague, and an important mentor to me. He was a brilliant, prophetic scholar, and a risk-taking and pathbreaking advocate for underrepresented groups in the legal academy, and the world. I am extremely grateful to be the first recipient of the Michael A. Olivas Award.”
The annual award serves as a memorial to Michael A. Olivas, who died in April 2022 after an illustrious career in law, most recently as William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law Emeritus at the University of Houston Law Center and the Director of the University of Houston’s Institute for Higher Education Law & Governance. In 2018, Olivas was awarded the AALS Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education and the Law, the association’s highest honor.
The Olivas Award is presented by the AALS Sections on Civil Rights, Education Law, Immigration Law, Minority Groups, and Student Services. It is awarded annually to the faculty member who most vividly exemplifies Olivas’s devotion to mentoring junior and aspiring faculty from underrepresented communities and promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity in the legal academy.
Johnson has led UC Davis School of Law since 2008. During his time as dean, the school has drawn national accolades for its majority-minority faculty and overall emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2020, Johnson introduced a Racial Justice Speaker Series that draws leading scholars from throughout the country.
“For decades, Dean Kevin Johnson has exemplified Michael Olivas’s dedication to uplifting the next generation of diverse leaders in legal education.” said Anthony Varona, chair of the Olivas Award Selection Committee and Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Seattle School of Law. “The Selection Committee received many compelling nominations in support of an array of legal education leaders who very effectively carry on much of Michael’s legacy. We hope that many of these deserving nominees will be celebrated with the Olivas Award in future years. But this year, the award’s inaugural year, the Selection Committee was unanimous in our agreement with his many nominators that there is no one more deserving of the first Olivas Award than Dean Kevin Johnson. I know that Michael himself would have cheered this selection.”
The selection committee for the award also included Leonard Baynes (Dean, University of Houston Law Center), Natalie Gomez-Velez (City University of New York School of Law), Marc-Tizoc González (University of New Mexico School of Law), Emile Loza de Siles (University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law), D. Carolina Núñez (Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School), and Maria Saez Tatman (University of Tennessee College of Law).
The award will be presented in-person at an awards ceremony at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego, California on January 5, 2023.
The Association of American Law Schools (AALS), founded in 1900, is a nonprofit association of 176 member and 19 fee-paid law schools. Its members enroll most of the nation’s law students and produce the majority of the country’s lawyers and judges, as well as many of its lawmakers. The mission of AALS is to uphold and advance excellence in legal education. In support of this mission, AALS promotes the core values of excellence in teaching and scholarship, academic freedom, and diversity, including diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints, while seeking to improve the legal profession, to foster justice, and to serve our many communities–local, national and international.