Professor Beth Colgan became the 42nd winner of UCLA School of Law’s highest faculty honor, the Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching, at a ceremony on April 22.
The award, founded in 1979 by famed legal publisher William Rutter, is presented annually to leading legal educators at five top California law schools.
Colgan joined the UCLA Law faculty in 2014. She teaches criminal law, criminal procedure and related courses. Her research focuses on the disenfranchisement of marginalized communities and on the disparate impact of fines, fees and forfeitures on poor people who are engaged in the criminal justice system.
Before she came to UCLA Law, Colgan was a Thomas C. Grey fellow and lecturer at Stanford Law School; the managing attorney of the Institutions Project at the public interest law group Columbia Legal Services in Washington state; and a litigator at Perkins Coie.
In introductory remarks during the afternoon ceremony, UCLA Law Dean Jennifer Mnookin and Paul Rutter ’78, a Cozen O’Connor partner and son of the late William Rutter, emphasized that Colgan’s reputation as a consummately prepared, demanding and compassionate professor made her an obvious choice for the award.
After she thanked her many supporters among the law school’s staff and faculty, Colgan said that she strives through her teaching “to make the law come alive” and to create classes that are welcoming “spaces for students who may not feel that they belong.”
She also recalled her own uncertainty as a student and how the passion and dedication of great instructors inspired her to overcome her doubts.
Her father, Steve, and mother, Sue, a longtime teacher in South Dakota, traveled to UCLA Law for the event. Colgan told stories from her mother’s decades of teaching at a rural school, including pre-dawn arrivals on campus to help struggling students and an episode where Sue Colgan kissed a pig for a fundraiser.
“To honor my mom, I keep in my mind that every one of my students deserves my best effort, even if that means doing something slightly embarrassing,” said Colgan, who, along with her parents, received a rousing round of applause.