Kagan ’81 nominated for Supreme Court

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President Barack Obama meets with Solicitor General Elena Kagan in the Oval Office last month. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan ’81 for a seat on the Supreme Court May 10. Kagan, a New York native and history major at Princeton, clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall and was the first woman to be dean of Harvard Law School before she joined the Obama administration last year. If confirmed, Kagan will join Samuel Alito ’72 and Sonia Sotomayor ’76 on the high court. Princeton has produced 11 Supreme Court justices, but three alumni have never served on the court at the same time. Three alumni — Smith Thompson 1788, Peter V. Daniel 1805, and James Moore Wayne 1808 — briefly served together on the court in 1842.

Kagan appeared in PAW’s alumni spotlight in 2003, after she was named dean of Harvard Law, and was profiled in a 2007 PAW feature story. But her first appearance in the magazine came as an undergraduate (below), when she was named the Sachs scholar in January 1981.


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From PAW, Feb. 9, 1981

Princeton Notebook: Sachs Scholar

Elena Kagan ’81, a history major from New York City, has been named this year’s Daniel M. Sachs ’60 Graduating Scholar. The fellowship, one of Princeton’s most prestigious awards, will enable her to study for two years at Worcester College, Oxford.

Last year’s editorial page editor for of The Daily Princetonian, Kagan is writing her senior thesis on the Socialist Party in New York City from 1900 to 1930 and she plans to study the history of British and European trade unionism during her time at Oxford. Last summer she worked as a deputy press secretary in the unsuccessful Senate campaign of Rep. Liz Holtzman, and in the summer of 1978, she served as a legislative intern for Rep. Ted Weiss. Kagan plans a career in government.

The Sachs fellowship was established by members of the Class of 1960 and other friends to honor the star athlete and Rhodes scholar whose promising career was cut short by cancer at age 28. It is awarded annually to a senior whose prospective career “would be most likely to have consequences of value to the public.”