As he prepared to deliver this year’s annual State of the College Address, Syracuse University College of Law Dean Craig Boise was thinking about both place and time. Moments before, he had officially dedicated the lecture hall where he was standing in the name of Eleanor Theodore L’52. He was thinking about her legacy and gift to future generations of law students who would study there.
“Today, we honor a woman who graduated more than a half-century ago, the only woman in the Class of 1952,” said Boise. Eleanor Theodore, who also earned her undergraduate degree from Syracuse University in 1949, passed away last year at the age of 92. Her estate gift to the College of Law will create the Eleanor Theodore Memorial Law Scholarship Fund to support scholarships for deserving and promising students.
The amount of the gift was not revealed, reflecting the wishes of the donor, her lifelong modesty, and her desire to serve others without fanfare. “Eleanor was an introvert,” says Mike Bandoblu L’11, Theodore’s close friend, accountant, and executor of her estate. “She was a private person, but she always put others first. The first word that comes to mind in describing Eleanor is ‘selflessness.’”
During the dedication ceremony, Boise recalled Theodore’s career of service over nearly four decades in the Department of Law for the City of Syracuse. As assistant corporation counsel, she provided legal advice to mayors, city departments, the council, the planning commission, and others.
“You name it—whatever happened in Syracuse, Eleanor probably had a hand in it, working through multiple administrations and transitions, and helping to build and protect the city she loved,” said Boise. According to a profile of Theodore published in Syracuse Law Magazine (Fall 2007), she was the first woman in the history of the city’s law department and its only female attorney during her first decade there. She served for 37 years, under 5 mayors and 11 corporation counsels.
“Her education at the College of Law was important to her. She often told people that. What she learned here built a future for her and allowed her to live a life of service,” said Boise. “By putting her name on this lecture hall, we hope our students will remember the woman who was modest in demeanor but fierce in her commitment to serving others and the College of Law.”
In opening the program, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2024, and President of the College’s Women’s Law Students Association Julie Yang said “The Women’s Law Students Association is committed to empowering women and advancing women in legal education and the legal profession. Our mission is to advocate for gender equity and women’s causes while creating lasting relationships with our mentors and alumnae. It is fitting therefore that we should join in this morning’s unveiling, in celebration of a woman who was truly a trailblazer. I know I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that we will remember this day with great admiration and inspiration.”
In the State of the College address following the dedication, Boise noted that the College remains strong, in large part due to the generosity of alumni and friends. In 2021-22, the College exceeded fundraising goals by 40%, with $6 million raised from 1600 donors, allowing the College “to attract the best and brightest and offer them appropriate financial aid to help make their career dreams a reality.”