For one family, Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is more than just a law school—it’s a place of legacy.
The Finn family created a talent fund, the “Ruth J. Finn Scholarship Legacy: Finn, Gartell, Turner” to honor their mother and grandmother. Ruth and her late husband Herbert “Herb” Finn were instrumental in advocating desegregation and social justice during the civil rights movement.
For Finns, ASU Law is truly a familial affair with three generations of alumni: Ruth (70), her daughters, Judge Elizabeth J. Finn (72) and Alice Finn Gartell (1989), and Elizabeth’s son, Jesse Finn Turner (’05), with Ruth And Alice graduated both of them with distinction.
Part of ASU Law’s foundational class, Roth set the tone for the family in law school, where she began her undergraduate pursuit of her degree at age 48 and graduated summa cum laude in 1970.
“My parents met at ASU. I had ASU baby clothes on,” Jesse said. “Everyone of my immediate family has an ASU degree, myself included. I am the fourth member of my extended family to attend Arizona State University Law.”
The entire family also followed Ruth and Herb’s devotion to public service. Elizabeth, who recently retired from her position as chief justice of Glendale City Court after 49 years of service in the legal field (including 42 on the court), worked for a family business called Finn, Finn, and Finn, and the judge defended her on behalf of victims of domestic violence. Jesse became a Maricopa County public defender defending those in the criminal justice system who had no voice, while Alice, now retired, worked as a general counsel for the Arizona Education Association to promote public education and literacy.
The “Ruth J. Finn Scholarship Legacy: Finn, Gartell, Turner” celebrates the path that Ruth paved for the family–despite the obstacles she faced as a woman in law.
“In those days, it was rare to have a woman in law school—there were only four—and a middle-aged female student was rare,” Elizabeth and Alice wrote in a joint statement. Ruth faced many challenges as an elderly woman in law school; I asked a student why she wasn’t at home taking care of her grandchildren.”
Prior to attending law school, Ruth worked in what is now a paralegal in the private practice of Herb, conducting legal research and writing summaries. However, she could not appear in court or sign in her name on her writings.
“In my grandmother’s days, law firms would turn her down because they ‘hired a woman of the year,’” Jessie said. “I am fortunate to work in an environment where female lawyers and judges are seen as the norm rather than a curiosity.”
In addition to the scholarship fund, Elizabeth plans to donate original documents related to her parents’ civil rights work in Arizona to ASU.
These documents offer a glimpse into their tireless work as civil rights activists—working in the legal sector to desegregate schools in the Phoenix area, address discriminatory public accommodations and housing remodeling, and fight job discrimination.
In particular, these documents highlight the couple’s pivotal work with Hayzel B. Daniels, Arizona’s first black attorney and judge, to bring two cases before the Maricopa County Superior Court to desegregate high schools and elementary schools in Arizona, and to pursue cases on their own without pay. or reimbursement of expenses – every one year before Brown v. Board of Education.
They also highlight the quality of people who were Ruth and Herb.
In a special article entitled “Civil Rights for All,” Elizabeth recounted her first experience with discrimination, when she took her mother downtown to lunch with her father and Daniels. They were told that Daniels was forbidden from entering the restaurant. When Finn’s family brought him in anyway, the staff proceeded to smash each cup and plate next to their table.
“Although my parents had meetings at home that discussed[discrimination]the smashing of dishes led me to the fact that these differences actually meant something to others,” Elizabeth said. “They didn’t mean anything to me because of the way I was raised: everyone is equal, special and unique, and these kinds of differences should be cherished.”
The Ruth J. Finn Study Legacy: Finn, Gartell, Turner aims to fund Arizona State University law students who embody these qualities and contribute to the Finnish family’s legacy of public service.
Elizabeth and Alice wrote: “Our family has a strong tradition of public service, each of us in our own way.” “We want the scholarship to go to a student who has a record of public service and a dedication to helping others.”
Above all, the Finns hope that the scholarship will honor the life of their mother.
“We wanted to honor Ruth J. Finn. Elizabeth and Alice added that she passed away in 2019, but her gravestone accurately describes her as a ‘fighter for justice.’” “We want to continue her legacy of helping others, especially giving a voice to the voiceless.”
For more information about the scholarship, contact email@example.com.