Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor answers questions onstage with President Eibeck

Justice Sotomayor lauds liberal arts education at Advancing Women’s Leadership Forum

Oct 23, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor shared her rise to success from a challenging childhood and touted the value of a liberal arts education before a sold-out crowd at University of the Pacific on Friday during the Advancing Women’s Leadership Forum.

Stockton native Connie X. Rishwain, a Pacific alumna who catapulted the UGG shearling boot to a meteoric rise, and Amy Purdy, a 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist and motivational speaker, were also featured speakers at the event that seeks to inspire and empower future leaders.

“College,” Sotomayor responded when one of the 2,000 visiting public school students in the audience asked the secret to achieving dreams. “It’s called a liberal arts education.”

Watch Justice Sotomayor's speech above, or view the video on YouTube.

Sotomayor spoke from the stage for just a few moments before venturing onto the floor of the Spanos Center to shake hands with some of the 3,000 attendees. She then climbed the stadium stairs to shake hands and embrace the 2,000 or so middle-, high-school and college students at the event and fielded questions from them. She urged them to find mentors who encouraged them and reminded them that there is always a chance for hope.

“There is hope, and that is so, so important,” she said.

Hundreds more attendees watched via simulcast at Faye Spanos Concert Hall across campus and Sotomayor stopped by the simulcast location to surprise the crowd, including a woman who drove from Phoenix, Arizona, just to hear Sotomayor speak. Sotomayor was greeted by a standing ovation, spoke briefly and took several questions from the crowd before continuing to the Spanos Center.

Sotomayor, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court since 2009, had been invited to speak at the Advancing Women’s Leadership Forum by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Connie Callahan, a Pacific alumna, former member of the university’s Board of Regents and one of the founders of the event.

Connie RishwainRishwain, who was recently elected to the Pacific Board of Regents for a term that begins next year, told the crowd on Friday that she attributed much of her success to the lessons she learned from her family while growing up in Stockton.

“Find your passion and surround yourself with people who love and encourage you,” she urged the audience.

Rishwain, a graduate of Stockton’s Stagg High School who earned her bachelor’s degree in history at Pacific in three years, catapulted the UGG shearling boot into a $1.5 billion global lifestyle brand under her leadership.

She was promoted in 2002 to president of UGG, a division of footwear and apparel company Deckers Brands. She also has been Group President of Deckers’ Lifestyle Brands since 2014 and is a past president of the company’s Simple division. Previously, she was the vice president of merchandising and marketing at Impo International Shoe Company and the vice president of merchandising for Nine West before joining Deckers in 1995.

The forum on Advancing Women’s Leadership brings together diverse and esteemed thought leaders from the local and national stages to inspire participants, especially young women, to make a lasting, positive and powerful impact in the communities where they live and work. The first Advancing Women’s Leadership forum in March 2013 featured former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Beside Callahan, the founders of the event include Kathy Lagorio Janssen, Dea Spanos-Berberian, Cyril Seligman, and Kristen Spracher-Birtwhistle. Callahan, Lagorio Janssen, and Spanos-Berberian have each served on the Pacific Board of Regents, Lagorio Janssen is the current chair of the Board of Regents, all are past ATHENA recipients, and they are committed to the advancement of women and men in Stockton and San Joaquin County.

Sponsors for this year’s forum include Golden Bear Insurance, Food 4 Less, A.G. Spanos Companies and the Cortopassi Family Foundation. 

Media contact:

Claudia Morain | 209.479.9894 (cell) | 209.946.2313 (office) |

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