Beverly Ledbetter was named Brown University’s first legal counsel in 1978. After 40 years in the position, she is set to retire at the end of this academic year.

“Preserving the ability for students and faculty to experience the intellectual depth and breadth of the institution,” she said in a statement. “I hope that’s the legacy I leave.”

Chief legal officer at Brown University, Beverly Ledbetter. (Courtesy Photo)

“Whether advising on the complexities of evolving federal regulations or representing the University in a major legal action, Beverly is a brilliant legal mind and a fierce advocate for the best interests of Brown,” University President Christina Paxson said in a statement. “She’s also a treasured and trusted colleague whose impact on Brown’s progress is immeasurable. Without her expert and reliable counsel over four decades, Brown would not be the University it is today.”

Ledbetter graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. with a degree in chemistry. She then went on to the University of Colorado Law School where she received her legal degree in 1973.

She began her legal career at the University of Oklahoma before joining Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

As head of the university’s legal team Ledbetter led the efforts in several high-profile cases, including United States v. Brown University, an anti-trust case that was ultimately settled and the effort to recover a Union sword that was stolen from the school’s collection in the 1977. The sword was ultimately ordered returned to Brown, which Ledbetter characterized as, “At its heart, the University’s case is quite simple. We own it. It was stolen. And we want it back.”

In addition she has spoken out against the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a travel ban on mainly Muslim nations and advocated for maintaining the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA.

In addition to serving as chief legal officer, Ledbetter is the former president of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, and served in leadership positions in organizations such as the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island, the Thurgood Marshall Law Society, the Urban League, the Providence Housing Authority, the NCAA Committee on Infractions, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and The Links.

“How did I manage to stay so long?” Ledbetter asked in a statement. “Adaptability. With new leadership comes new initiatives, new ideas and new operating mechanisms. You can’t survive without both an ability and a willingness to adapt. Brown today is very different from the Brown I came to in 1978. Both have a special place in my heart.”