Sonia Sotomayor made history in 2009 when she became America's first Hispanic and Latina Supreme Court Justice. To many, she also represents the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx before serving on the Nation's highest court. Over the course of her judicial career, she has issued an injunction that ended the 1994 Major League Baseball strike in favor of the players, fought for the protection of affirmative action programs, and gained a reputation for dealing bluntly with the lawyers who argued before her.
While serving on the Second Circuit, Sotomayor heard appeals in more than 3,000 cases and wrote about 380 opinions. In addition to her public service, Sotomayor has taught at the New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School. As a trailblazer in her field, she has also been the recipient of numerous honors, including the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Leadership Award and honorary law degrees from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY), Princeton University, and Brooklyn Law School. Sotomayor is the third woman to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court, following Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor.
Sotomayor arrived at Princeton University in 1972 and felt like, "a visitor landing in an alien country." Academically, Sotomayor struggled her first year at Princeton and she realized that she would need to improve her writing skills to succeed. She boned up on grammar, read widely over her vacations, and worked closely with her thesis advisor. All of Sotomayor's hard work paid off when she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1976, graduating summa cum laude. She was also awarded the Pyne Prize, which is the highest academic award given to Princeton undergraduates.
Since leaving, Sotomayor has maintained a leading role in the Princeton community. In 2014 she received the Woodrow Wilson Award and credited her alma mater with instilling a commitment to service within her. In addition, she served on the University’s Board of Trustees before her appointment to the Supreme Court, and over the years she has returned to Princeton on numerous occasions as a guest speaker, as in 2018, when she attended the "She Roars" Conference. More recently, in 2019, the Justice was once again back on campus to help celebrate the creation of the Sonia Sotomayor 1976 Scholarship Fund, a scholarship which will be awarded to Princeton students from first-generation backgrounds who have demonstrated a commitment to helping others. Now Sotomayor Scholars, and every Princeton student, will find inspiration in her legacy of public service.