Remembering Professor Gwynne Skinner

by Sarah Carlson,

  • Law Professor Gwynne Skinner passed away December 11, 2017.

Willamette Law is saddened to announce the passing of one of its most gracious, enthusiastic and accomplished professors. Professor Gwynne Skinner passed away from a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. She was 53 years old.

Gwynne will be remembered by students, staff and faculty at Willamette as a professor who was both scholar and friend.

“Gwynne was truly inspirational both inside and outside the classroom, and we will miss her friendship and spirit every bit as much as her professional contributions,” said Law Dean Curtis Bridgeman.

Throughout her illness and time away from the school her absence was felt acutely.

“She was both respected and beloved by students,” said Laura Appleman, law professor and associate dean of faculty research. “She was a real treasure — always willing to pitch in, even if she was juggling a million other things.”

Gwynne was promoted to full professor in June 2017 and directed the Human Rights and Immigration Law Clinic for several years. Human and civil rights were her passion, and she dedicated much of her life to advocating for those issues. At Willamette Law, Gwynne taught students about immigration, refugee law, and human rights. She also served as the faculty advisor for OUTLaw, which provides a forum for discussing LGBTQ legal issues. She was deeply involved in student activities and “always showed up for everything,” Appleman said.

In 2015, Gwynne was recognized with the university’s Jerry F. Hudson Award for Excellence in Teaching. That same year, Willamette University Public Interest Law Project gave her its Raising the Bar Award for her efforts in going above and beyond to promote public interest law and address access to justice issues.

Gwynne gave numerous presentations and wrote many law review articles and other publications. Her primary scholarly interest was international human rights, focusing on on legal issues related to human and civil rights litigation, and in particular, barriers to legal remedies.

Outside of work, she assisted refugees with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and was a longstanding and enthusiastic volunteer for the Democratic Party, attending the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Gwynne was also involved with the American Bar Association, OGALLA: The LGBT Bar Association of Oregon, and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, in addition to other organizations. She enjoyed traveling around the world and spending time outside, frequently skiing, hiking and camping with her family. She especially loved biking and did many long-distance bike trips with her wife.

Before joining the faculty at Willamette Law in 2008, she was a civil rights and international human rights attorney in Seattle, earning accolades such as the Seattle Human Rights Advocate of the Year award in 2008 and being named one of the city’s top civil rights lawyers by Seattle Magazine in 2005.

Gwynne will be remembered for being a passionate advocate and teacher, friend, wife, mother and beloved family member. She was a community builder wherever she went, inside and outside the law school, Appleman said, and her presence will be missed.

Gwynne is survived by two daughters and her wife, Beth. Her family has asked that we respect their privacy during this very difficult time. A funeral will be held from 10 to 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, followed by a celebration of life from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Andrew Church, 806 NE Alberta Ave., Portland. Those who would like to attend are welcome.

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