Dean Emerita Toni Massaro Earns Place in University Women’s Plaza of Honor

April 18, 2022

Massaro has been a guiding force at the College of Law since she joined the faculty in 1989.

University of Arizona Women's Plaza of Honor

Toni Massaro, Regents Professor, Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law Emerita, and Dean Emerita of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law was honored during a special tribute this month for her influence and impact on the university.   

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The event, hosted by the Agnese Nelms Haury Program, celebrated four extraordinary women from around the university: Karletta Chief, PhD (Environmental Science); Diana Liverman, PhD (Geography, Development & Environment); Sallie Marston, PhD (Geography, Development & Environment) and Massaro. The gathering culminated in the unveiling of custom tiled benches in the University’s Women’s Plaza of Honor dedicated to each woman’s professional passions and personal values.   

During the event, Massaro’s colleagues and confidants spoke about her legacy. Suzanne Dovi, associate professor with the School of Government and Public Policy, spoke on her friendship with Massaro, recounting highlights from Massaro’s career. Dovi also shared personal anecdotes demonstrating Massaro’s devotion to her students, including one exemplary story in which Massaro translated an entire lecture using sign language Massaro had learned years before as a camp counselor after the interpreter for a deaf student failed to show up.   

“[Toni] is fueled by a sense of service…her fair mindedness supports her determination to pursue justice fiercely,” said Dovi. “Whether it's protecting first amendment rights, finding the rational basis for gay marriage, or trying to get clean water to the Navajo. Toni doesn't want us to wring our hands and discuss the worries of the world, Toni wants us to make the world more just.”    

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Marc Miller, dean of the College of Law, presented Massaro with her commemorative bench, noting during his remarks that while Massaro’s time at the college has been filled with countless changes and challenges, her visionary leadership remained unwavering.   

“[Toni] builds community through her generosity of spirit and her extraordinary accessibility,” said Miller, who was recruited to the college 18 years ago by Massaro. “She has been the counselor, community builder, literal host for generations of students, faculty and staff and consigliere to deans before and after her tenure. Fortunately, she's still one of the most active members of our community.”  

Massaro has been a guiding force at the College of Law since she joined the faculty in 1989. She was named the Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law in 1997 and a Regents Professor by the Arizona Board of Regents in 2006. Between 1999 and 2009, she served as dean of the College of Law, the first woman to hold that post. She has been recognized as Teacher of the Year a record eight times (and the “Massaro rule,” a gift to her colleagues, precludes professors from winning the award two years in a row).   

Her academic scholarship, which continues to earn wide acclaim, focuses on constitutional law, with particular emphasis on freedom of expression, equality, and substantive due process. Massaro also has written on the use of shame penalties in criminal law, artificial intelligence and freedom of speech, and the constitutional implications of the Flint water contamination crisis. She is the author of “The Arc of Due Process in American Constitutional Law,” “Constitutional Literacy: A Core Curriculum for a Multicultural Nation,” and “Civil Procedure: Cases and Problems.”   

From 2014 until 2019, she served as the chair of the Haury Program’s Advisory Council, where she provided insights and advice to the trustees of the Haury Estate bequest. And in 2021, she became executive director of the program.   

True to her spirit, Massaro spent a significant portion of her own remarks praising the work of her fellow honorees and even encouraging the crowd to help her celebrate her colleague Dovi’s birthday, complete with a cake.      

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“This is utterly insane for me to be in the same page, let alone in the same program that honors these three women. One of my gifts is I know when I’m in the presence of greatness and people who want to do something better for the world,” said Massaro. “Your work and your very beings are a testimony to the highest ethics of a university community that seeks to fulfill its commitment to the public good…Thank you to the organizers of this event for seeing them and how they matter. Not just in conventional ways or resume ways, but the all the other ways that really make the community.”