When the Harvard Corporation this week appointed its first woman member, Washington lawyer Judith Richards Hope, many called the event an important milestone in the University's history.
But Hope's son Zachary, a Harvard sophomore, is used to seeing his mother as a trailblazer. "Things like this are not really out of the ordinary," he says. "A lot of things my mom has done were unprecedented for women."
Zachary, a Currier House resident, says his mother has opened new doors for women throughout her career as a top attorney and Republican party activist. "She's not a heavy equal rights supporter, not a rah-rah feminist, but she has taken pride as a woman leader," he says. "She's has always been very excited about women's leadership, and has tried to help the role of women in leadership and important positions."
Although she did not campaign for a seat on Harvard's highest governing board, Zachary says Hope has been "intensely interested" in the lifetime post since she was interviewed for the job by Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky several months ago. The appointment "is the climax, or one of the climaxes, of her career," he adds.
Hope, 48, has had a distinguished career as a lawyer specializing in transportation issues. She first entered politics as an advisor to the Ford Administration, and has since served as co-chair of Lawyers for Reagan/Bush in 1984 and as general counsel to the 1988 presidential campaign of Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.)
Despite her long association with Republican politics, Zachary describes his mother as a moderate.
"She's from a small, Midwestern town, Defiance, Ohio, where her father was a Methodist minister," he says. "She has a very pure Midwestern work ethic and people ethic. Coming from that background, she's not a cutthroat, conservative person."
As a mother, Zachary says, Hope has always tried to impart egalitarianism and concern about social issues to her son. "In bringing me up, she always tried to root out any kind of complacency, and she never permitted arrogance or elitism," he says.
Zachary says his mother's career has been marked by a desire for public service, a desire rooted in her decision at the age of 12 to become a lawyer.
"My grandfather was up against some opponents who were trying to take away his practice and his role as a religious figure," he says. "My mother always resented that aggression. She always wanted to be a lawyer so that she could set things straight and protect people."
It is this motivation that sparked Hope's struggle for confirmation as a federal judge last year, Zachary says. Hope's nomination was blocked by Democratic senators who did not want a Republican on the court, he says.
"There was a certain amount of disappointment and a certain amount of resentment," Zachary says of his mother's reaction. "She had really wanted to give to the country."
Educational issues have been among Hope's major concerns in politics, her son says. "She loves to teach and learn, and she loves the law," he says.
Zachary, who concentrates in East Asian Studies and Economics and plays on the varsity baseball team, says his mother always wanted him to go to Harvard, where she attended law school in the early 1960s. Hope's other child, Miranda, was accepted early to Harvard this year and considers it her first choice, he adds.
Although he says he is excited about his mother's appointment and will be curious about her work, Zachary says being the son of a new Corporation member is a mixed blessing.
"I hope people don't think that there is any kind of preferential treatment toward me or that I've got some kind of an advantage," says Zachary, who is also the grandson of comedian Bob Hope. "People have often made premature judgments based on my family."
Zachary says he is also concerned that the Harvard community will view his mother as a hard-line conservative. "She's always been concerned with social issues and social problems," he says. "In Washington, she's always had friends on both sides of the line."
Hope's close friends include Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), who was in her class at the Law School. She is also acquainted with both President Bush and former President Ronald Reagan, her son says.
Zachary says that despite his mother's new position, he expects she will continue to find time for her family.
"She's amazing--she does it all," he says. "She is an incredible mother and she has had a great career."