Thursday, April 9, 2009

In Passing: Virginia Leary

Virginia Leary
August 15, 1926 – April 8, 2009

Yesterday, Virginia Leary died suddenly of a heart attack in Geneva, Switzerland, where she had lived for a number of years since her retirement. She grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she also attended the University of Utah. Her legal education and career in human rights are covered in this post which describes the Goler T. Butcher Medal she received for her outstanding contribution to human rights. She was awarded the Medal at the American Society of International Law at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in April 2008. Professor Leary was a prolific scholar on a broad range of issues, including labor law, workers’ rights, the right to health, child labor issues, and international trade and human rights.
In addition to her outstanding professional career, Professor Leary was an exceptional human being. Her wit and good humor made her friends wherever she went. Her students became her close friends. Following are comments and condolences written shortly after the announcement of her death. She touched both her long term friends as well as recent acquaintances, including seven Frank C. Newman Interns who were representing Human Rights Advocates at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in March. Professor Leary sat on the Human Rights Advocates International Advisory Board for many years, and played a similar leadership role in a number of other groups.

What a wonderful shining inspiration Virginia has been to me across the years.
-Janelle Diller

So many of us have such fond memories of Virginia throughout the years that each of us has known her. I still even remember when Virginia was working on her doctorate when I met her decades ago in Geneva! She had such well-organized index cards!! Boy, does that date us!!!! Anyway, I am happy that there will be a memorial service out here at some point and that we can all share remembrances of this wonderful woman who graced our lives. Sadly,
-Julianne Traylor

I was very sorry to hear that Virginia Leary passed away. She was a wonderful human being.
-David Weissbrodt

Je suis peinée du départ de Virginia. Elle me laisse le souvenir d'une personne qui a joyeusement contribuer jusqu'à la fin à diverses initiatives de justice sociale.
(I am pained by Virginia's passing. She leaves with me the memory of a person who contributed joyously until the end to a variety of social justice initiatives.)

-Gaëtane Gascon

Merci pour ce message bien triste du dépàrt de Virginia. Je crois qu'elle est dans la Paix pour toujours.
(Thanks for this very sad message of Virginia’s passing. I believe that she is in Peace forever.)
-Fina Bijnens

I am so sorry to hear about Virginia. She was such a vivacious and spirited woman. I'm so thankful that we had the opportunity to meet her.
-Amanda Solter

Oh I'm so very sorry. She was such a very special woman and truly touched me. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet her.
My deepest sympathies,
Marie Montesano

I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Virginia . She is on my prayers and also I have very vivid the wonderful moments that we shared with her in Geneva and her incredible energy.
Laura Rivera

I am so sorry to hear this. She made an incredible impression upon all of us in just the few times that we were able to see her in Geneva. She seemed to be such a vibrant woman. My deepest sympathies go out to her friends and family.
-Alex Tuzin

I am saddened to hear today about the loss of Virginia Leary. In the short few times that I had the pleasure of meeting her, I was impacted by her strength, humor, kindness and spirit. She was a true character, in the grandest sense of the word. I'm reminded of a quote: "The most wasted of all days is one without laughter ". If that's the standard, I'm sure Virginia didn't waste a minute.
-Amol Mehra

She was such an amazing woman, I can't believe she's gone. She was so sharp, and her wit sharper. My best to her family, the short time we knew her was enough to admire the strong, intelligent, independent woman she was. Goodbye Virginia. You will be sorely missed.
-Leslie Bennett

Very very sorry to hear, and yes absolutely how lucky we are to have known her.
-Sofia Gruskin

Such a wonderful amazing inspiring caring person. She leaves a world changed by her good work, and countless numbers of us nourished by having worked with her.
-Stephanie Farrior

A great sadness indeed - but what a life well lived! What impact, strength, intellect, and warmth.
-Sandra Coliver

She had a wonderful, long and rich life-- she was someone I truly believed would always be there. It's a lesson in not taking anyone's life for granted any more.
-Jane Rocamora

Indeed, so here's to speaking of Virginia's good life as a way to build a long and vibrant and diverse community that enables us all to continue.
-Ali Miller

I could not have said it better myself!


Charnovitz said...

What sad news... She was a great humanitarian, an inspirational scholar, and had a generous and warm spirit that will live on in our memories.

Unknown said...

Virgina headlined an international labor conference at Standford Law School a few years ago. She was as sharp as ever. Her knowledge and wisdom of international law, as well as her continued tenacity, were truly inspiring.

Peter Trooboff said...

In the early 1990s when the Society faced serious problems of governance and leadership, Virginia served on the Executive Committee of ASIL. We spent considerable time together at meetings and on the phone. I knew Virginia’s scholarship but our collaboration on Society business gave me a chance to see another previously unknown side of her talents. She was a shrewd, thoughtful and practical administrator and consistently furnished wise guidance concerning our most difficult issues. When a much-discussed idea finally received her approval, I knew that we were on the right course. Virginia was also self-effacing so that only those of us who worked closely with her realized how much she had contributed. I shall always guard a special memory of Virginia receiving the award and medal in memory of Goler T Bucher. I could only think how proud Goler would have been to see her colleague honored in this way. I shall miss Virginia greatly.

Deborah said...

I am almost 3 times younger the age of Professor Leary, but not only I had the privilege of working for her in her latest publication with Daniel Warner at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, but also to enjoy her joyful, positive and playful company and friendship.

I am taking from her many lessons for life that she projected with example, among which is the wisdom of activist Elizabeth Cady Staton, that professor Leary kept in a small dusty note next to her coat rack at the entrance of her apartment: "I shall not grow conservative with age"
I will miss her.

Unknown said...

I have known Virginia for a number of years. I used to meet her occasionally for lunch. Virginia was always straightforward with her peculiar humor. I called her a few weeks ago. I was planning to meet her over lunch one of these days. I was very saddened to hear her passing away. May Virginia rest in peace!!

Sanjeewa Liyanage
Rolle, Switzerland