Professor Margaret Montoya Named 2013 “Great Teacher”

January 16, 2013

Professor Margaret E. Montoya

Emerita Professor Margaret Montoyawas surrounded by family, colleagues and friends when she was presented with the 2013 Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) Great Teacher Award at the SALT annual dinner on January 6th.  The Great Teacher Award recognizes individuals or institutions that have made especially important contributions to teaching, legal education, and mentoring of students and younger faculty.

“A former president of SALT, and the first Latina to be accepted to Harvard Law School, Professor Montoya fulfills the highest ideals of this prestigious award through her lifelong passion for teaching,” said Professor Steven Bender of Seattle University School of Law, who nominated Montoya, along with a group of other law professors.

In her acceptance speech, Professor Montoya reflected on her life’s work and the work of SALT. She championed the organization’s efforts in “undertaking difficult issues and cultivating the moral courage that continues to be shown by its leadership on issues such as the illegality of torture, the unfairness of bar passage standards, the urgency of GLBT rights.” She also discussed the work yet to be done in diversifying the legal profession and the legal academy.

Montoya joined the University of New Mexico School of Law faculty in 1992, and has taught courses in constitutional rights, torts, contracts, clinical law and employment law. In her seminars, she examined issues of race, ethnicity, gender, culture and language. In 2003, a group of law students under her supervision filed an amicus brief in Grutter v. Bollinger, an affirmative action case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Professor Montoya retired from the law faculty in October 2012. She spent two years as senior adviser to Chancellor Paul Roth, in the UNM Health Sciences Center, before retiring, and is now a working retiree as a visiting professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine. Her work on educational pipelines and health disparity issues led to her assignment at the UNM Health Sciences Center. She holds a secondary appointment in the Center’s Department of Community and Family Health and has been a member of the UNM School of Medicine’s admission committee for its combined BA/MD degree program.

Montoya has also been previously recognized by her professional peers and by the Latina/o community for her work. In 2009, the CUNY School of Law named her the Haywood Burns Chair in Civil Rights. She is the recipient of the prestigious Clyde Ferguson Award, given annually by law professors of color for accomplishments in scholarship, teaching and service. Both the National Latina/o Law Students Association and UNM’s Graduate and Professional Students of Color awarded her Lifetime Achievement Awards. The New Mexico Hispano Round Table, a coalition of some 60 Hispano/Latino organizations, gave her its Walk the Talk award. She was named by Hispanic Business Magazine to its list of Elite Latinas and also received the Kate Stoneman Award from Albany Law School for expanding opportunities for women.

In the words of Dean Bergman, "It was a great evening where many of Margaret's friends and colleagues were privileged to share in her honor and to celebrate together her many important contributions and achievements. We are proud of our colleague for this and the many honors she has received throughout her career."

Professor Christine Zuni Cruz adds, “Professor Montoya has been an inspiration to many of her students and other leaders in the legal academy.  It was terrific to celebrate her as a teacher and to hear her issue a challenge to SALT to lead a national conversation on race in her acceptance speech.  The UNM School of Law faculty was well represented at this salute and honor of a great teacher.  Professor Montoya joins the ranks of other nationally recognized law professors and recipients of the award, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Derrick Bell, Cruz Reynoso and Francisco  Valdes. The award recognizes teaching, an area our institution values most highly."

Video of Professor Montoya's acceptance speech can be viewed here.