Patti B. Saris: Local Judge Cites Harvard As Inspiration

If the Honorable Patti B. Saris '73 becomes a member of Harvard's board of Overseers, she should feel right at home on the Cambridge campus.

"I'm a local kid," she says.

It's true--Saris was born and raised in West Roxbury and attended Boston public schools as a child.

The college years didn't take her too far from home either--she crossed the river and attended Harvard as an undergraduate, and then again for Law School.

Now she works as a federal court judge downtown.

But even as Boston held Saris in its reins, Harvard, the judge says, launched her on a lifelong journey.

"It opened up so many horizons to me and gave me the idea that I could be a leader and move on," Saris says.

Her four years at Harvard were a time of great restlessness and change on campus--something she describes as exciting.

In her second semester as a freshman, the dorms went co-ed and women were first allowed to live by the river.

Her move from Currier House to Dunster House after her sophomore year was a relief, says Saris who became the associate managing editor for The Crimson in her junior year.

The nighttime walk to the Quad after late hours at The Crimson was unpleasant when no shuttles were running.

As a first-year and sophomore, Saris says, she didn't have to take any final exams; students were on strike because of the Vietnam War.

In addition to The Crimson, Saris got involved with the Institute of Politics (IOP). Eventually, she became a member of their student advisory board.

And, last but not least, she met her husband at Harvard, too--he was a Government major and head of Harvard Student Agencies. Now they have four children--two boys and two girls

It was after her graduation from Harvard Law School in 1976 that Saris made a name for herself.

She held a series of jobs in law before being named a federal judge by President Clinton in 1994--her bosses have included Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54-56 (D-Mass.), former Governor William F. Weld '66 and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Now she's back in Boston after several years in Washington.

Saris says she is excited at the possibility of giving back to a school that gave her so much. Over the years she has remained involved in Harvard affairs--participating in an intellectual renewal seminar at Radcliffe, visiting Hillel and being named Class Marshall at her 25th reunion.