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Maureen O’Connor to Speak at Constitution Day Event at Kenyon College

GAMBIER, Ohio — Retired Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor — the longest-serving woman to hold state office in Ohio’s history — will be the featured speaker at a Constitution Day event sponsored by the Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

“As the former chief justice of Ohio’s Supreme Court, Maureen O’Connor has deep experience in constitutional interpretation at the state level, including having to adjudicate some of the most divisive political and legal conflicts of our times,” said Joseph L. Klesner, CSAD director and a professor of political science. “Chief Justice O’Connor has demonstrated unwavering commitment to democracy and a level of political courage that few public officials rise to today.”

O’Connor will speak Wed., Sept. 13, on the topic of “The Challenges and Triumph of Democracy in Ohio … What’s Next?” Her remarks will begin at 7:30 p.m., in the auditorium at Oden Hall, 107 College Drive. Light refreshments will be served at the event, which is free and open to the public, and parking is available on site behind Chalmers Library in the West Quad Parking Garage. 

A Republican, O’Connor notably sided with the court’s Democrats in repeatedly striking down legislative and congressional political maps drawn by state officials. Since retiring at the end of 2022 due to age limits, she has been an advocate for reforming Ohio’s redistricting process.

As a member of the Supreme Court, she also was instrumental to the evolution of modern courts in the state. She ushered in electronic filing at the Supreme Court, provided appellate courts with a modern case management system, and committed more than $40 million to local courts to enhance technology.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to host former Chief Justice O’Connor and hear her thoughts on the evolution of the Ohio Constitution on Constitution Day,” Klesner said. “She has demonstrated her commitment to the rule of law and democratic practice.”

Constitution Day honors the U.S. Constitution and is typically observed on Sept. 17, when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in 1787. The college is celebrating early this year because the holiday falls on a weekend. Past speakers have included Stephen F. Knott, professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, and Sean Wilentz, professor of history at Princeton University.

O’Connor, 72, has had a storied role as a public servant. Raised in northeast Ohio, she served as a probate court magistrate, common pleas court judge and county prosecutor in Summit County before becoming lieutenant governor in 1999. She was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2002, becoming its first female chief justice in 2011. She received a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hill College in Pennsylvania and a law degree from Cleveland State University. 

Established in 2007, Kenyon’s Center for the Study of American Democracy organizes conferences, lectures and seminars with the goal of stimulating nonpartisan civic and political discourse. It also provides teaching and research opportunities for faculty and students and promotes student internships in Washington, D.C.

For more information, contact the Center for the Study of American Democracy at or 740-427-5855. The event is free and open to all members of the Kenyon community as well as interested members of the public and media.

Click to download an image of Retired Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, courtesy of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and images of Kenyon College


About Kenyon College: Founded in 1824, Kenyon is the oldest private college in Ohio and the first institution in the U.S. to implement the model of faculty members serving as academic advisors. With a curriculum rooted in the liberal arts, Kenyon students and faculty aspire to a nuanced understanding of the world and all who inhabit it. Kenyon is a top producer of Fulbright Fellows and ranks second among Division III institutions for fostering NCAA Postgraduate Scholars. Home to the Kenyon Review, one of the nation’s most esteemed literary magazines, Kenyon celebrates a rich literary tradition that promotes writing across academic disciplines. 

About the Center for the Study of American Democracy: Established in 2007, the Kenyon College Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) seeks open debate toward a subtle understanding of history, timeless questions and fundamental principles. The center organizes conferences, lectures and seminars with the goal of stimulating nonpartisan civic and political discourse, and it provides teaching and research opportunities for faculty and students.

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