It is tempting to bombard Alberta Colclaser LAW '36 with questions about what it was like to be a woman in law school in the 1930s—one of just three women in her Western Reserve law class of 75 students.
While Colclaser was certainly a pioneer, she tends to shrug such questions off.
"The real interesting story of my life," contends Colclaser, "isn't how or why I became a lawyer but what happened after I became one."
The real story, she says, revolves around her work to create a template for aviation and international law and policy that we still use today. In addition to setting a high benchmark for law students of both genders, Colclaser's professional success has also provided the financial means to help support future generations of students through a combination of outright and planned gifts.
Her support of the Case Western Reserve School of Law is broadly directed toward international law, a field she helped define through her work in aviation policy. After graduating in 1936 and furthering her education at Columbia University, Colclaser had the experience she needed in international and aviation law to work for the State Department.
This is the part of the story where Colclaser gets excited, the part where she picks up the policy books that represent her early work for the State Department.
"It begins on page 357 and goes to 383, so that's a lot," she says as she leafs through the faded-red volume on her lap with due care.
As World War II drew to a close, Colclaser's expertise came to the forefront of transatlantic aviation policy. Peace and realignment in Europe meant all policies had to be rewritten and new treaties had to be developed and brokered between nations. For example, Colclaser worked on revising the Warsaw Convention that established airline liability for passenger death.
In the mid-1950s, her State Department role was integrated into the Foreign Service, and she was soon appointed Chief of the Office of Transportation and Telecommunication Policy in the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
After more than five years in Paris and a good deal of European travel, Colclaser came back to the States to be the secretary of the College of Wooster, her undergraduate alma mater.
Once she was back in Ohio, she took advantage of what her old law school had to offer. "I came up to the law school for some social events and was asked to give a speech," Colclaser remarks. She's been closely involved with the school ever since.
This renewed relationship with Case Western Reserve School of Law has grown to include a substantial financial commitment through both annual and planned gifts. In 1999, Colclaser established the H. Alberta Colclaser Scholarship Fund, which supports students pursuing international law, with a preference to women.
Since that time, she has designated her existing charitable remainder annuity trust to the scholarship and has made an additional will commitment in support of the fund.
These commitments ensure that her legacy of commitment to her profession and to Case Western Reserve University will touch the lives of many students to come
To learn more about supporting students, faculty, and research at the School of Law, please contact the Office of Development & Public Affairs at 216-368-3308 or 800-492-3308, or visit law.case.edu.