Alumni of the Month Mar '12
Ruth Wright has had an illustrious career as a legislator, environmentalist, and historian. "Lawyer" is not used to describe Wright's career because she never really had a desire to be a practicing attorney. Rather, she used her legal education to help fuel her other interests.
Wright graduated cum laude from Marquette University in 1950 with a Bachelor of Philosophy. She went overseas after college, living in Germany, Austria, and Saudi Arabia. Along the way, she married her husband, Ken, in 1954.
The pair eventually moved back to the states, at which time Wright began her law studies. She graduated from Colorado Law in 1972, but not with the intent of joining a law firm. "A major reason for getting a law degree was to become a more effective environmentalist," says Wright. "So I never really 'practiced' law." Wright applied her legal education when she wrote an amicus brief for the League of Women Voters in support of the constitutionality of in-stream flows. Her time at Colorado Law also drove her towards public service, and as she went on to serve on the Colorado Water Control Commission and the State Health Board.
After enjoying great success as a citizen activist, Wright decided to take the next step and try her hand in the legislature. She was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1980, where she represented Boulder until 1994. She was also the second woman ever to become the House Minority Leader, a role that she held from 1986-1992. While serving in the House of Representatives, Wright continued to be a champion for the environment, earning recognition from groups such as the Colorado Wildlife Foundation, the ACLU, and the Sierra Club.
In recent years, Wright and her husband have taken a keen interest in studying the water usage habits of prehistoric people. Their work focuses specifically on the Inca of Peru, and they have published multiple books on the subject, including: The Machu Picchu Guidebook, Machu Picchu Revealed and Moray: Inca Engineering Mystery. As a result of her historical work, Wright has received the Prefesora Honoraria from the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria and the "Meritorious Services to the Republic of Peru" award from President Alan Garcia Perez.
Wright was previously honored by Colorado Law with the 2002 William Lee Knous Award. She also received the Stan Black Award from the Boulder Community Foundation in 2004.
Five Questions with Ruth Wright:
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
Preparing a paper on Height Control in the "Law and the City Environment" class which resulted in a Boulder City Charter Amendment, which controlled height to 55 feet; this saved the historic buildings in downtown Boulder and the view to the mountain backdrop.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
I knew what I wanted to get out of law school and have used those insights and tools ever since.
What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?
Do not limit yourself to the traditional jobs in the law, i.e., law firms. There are other very interesting jobs that a law degree opens up for you–executive positions in the health industry, for example.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
I knew early on that my broad education in English, history, and philosophy were not marketable, but were an ideal background for the law. After working overseas we returned for a year at the University of Wisconsin for my first year of law and a master's degree for my husband. After 10 years raising a family in Colorado, my husband urged me to finish my degree. So I can say: my husband!
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Helping shape legislation for the public good in the Colorado Legislature, especially as Minority Leader working with Governors Lamm and Romer.