Celebrating the career of Professor Ronna Greff Schneider

Friday, May 13, 2022 was declared Ronna Schneider Day in Cincinnati, OH by mayoral proclamation as colleagues, friends, former students and family gathered to celebrate the 42 year career of Professor Ronna Greff Schneider—only the second tenured woman professor at the College of Law and the first mother on the faculty. Schneider retired at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.

An expert in constitutional law, with a focus on the First Amendment, and education law, Schneider first came to the College of Law in 1980 as an assistant Professor of Law. Throughout her career at UC, she worked alongside such legal luminaries as Professors Stan Harper, Ken Aplin, John Murphy, Bert Lockwood, Al Squillante, Dean Emeritus Joseph Tomain, and Dean Emeritus Gordon Christensen.

Interestingly, when she arrived at the College, the building located at the corner of Clifton Avenue and Calhoun was in the midst of a major renovation.  The result was that her first office was located across the street in what had been a semi-private patient hospital room at the old Deaconess Hospital. It is only fitting that her departure coincides with the building’s move to a new site on the north end of the Clifton campus.  

Putting down stakes in Boston

Photo of Professor Bert Lockwood and Professor Ronna Schneider

Professor Bert Lockwood and Professor Ronna Schneider

A native Cincinnatian and Walnut Hills High School graduate, Schneider graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 with high honors with a bachelor’s degree in Russian Studies. She then enrolled in the Russian Studies graduate program at Yale University. After several months at Yale, she realized that a career that focused on Russian Studies was not for her. A new career would soon attract her attention. After leaving Yale, she began teaching at an alternative school in Brookline, Massachusetts for high school drop-outs and those who had been juvenile or adult offenders in the Boston area.  She soon decided that law might be a better way to address many of the problems faced by her students and thus applied to law school.

Schneider attended Boston College Law School, where she was on the Law Review and in the same study group as the future Massachusetts Senator, presidential candidate, Secretary of State, and today, the United State Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. Kerry subsequently asked Schneider to be his partner in the school’s Moot Court Competition, which they won, with the best oral advocate award going to Schneider. The next year, Schneider, Kerry and a third student were selected to be on the Boston College National Moot Court team.  They won Region One of the national competition and advanced to the national finals. Once again, the winner of the best oral advocate, this time in the regional competition, was Ronna Schneider. In the National Moot Court Competition finals in New York City, the Boston College team won the oral argument, but lost on the brief to the Duke Law School team, who subsequently went on to the national championship.

It was at Boston College Law School that Schneider was introduced through her mentors, Professors James Houghteling and Len Strickman, to education law, which would become her area of expertise. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Frank H. Freedman of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

During her time in Boston, she witnessed many of the historic school desegregation and busing decisions involving the Boston public schools, along with their tumultuous local consequences. Her interest in legal issues involving education and civil rights was growing.

The Ronna Greff Schneider Lecture in Constitutional Issues in Education Law will bring national leaders to the College to address current and critical constitutional issues in education law.

She became a Lecturer in Law at Boston College Law School and realized that she really enjoyed the legal academic environment.  Upon returning to Cincinnati, she joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati College of Law to teach those who would become the next generation of lawyers.

Schneider’s work in academia

Throughout her 42 years at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Schneider taught Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Torts, and Civil Procedure. She also created a popular seminar in civil rights issues in Education Law, which she taught annually.  Schneider has been a national leader in this area, chairing the Association of American Law Schools Section on Education Law multiple times. Additionally, she is an elected member of the prestigious American Law Institute that, among other things, writes and publishes the various Restatements of the Law.

Schneider has authored books, law review articles, and book reviews on many topics including sexual harassment, hate speech, and religion and schools. She is noted for her two-volume legal treatise, Education Law: First Amendment, Due Process and Discrimination Litigation (Thomson Reuters), and its regular supplements. She also is the co-editor of the book Education Law Stories (Foundation Press).

Leaving a legacy

photo of Profesor Ronna Schneider's family

Professor Schneider's family

Schneider has been an integral part of the law community for decades. For this reason, her family wished that she remain part of the law school’s future for many years to come even though she has retired. Thus, they created an annual lectureship, “The Ronna Greff Schneider Lecture in Constitutional Issues in Education Law” in her honor.  This annual lecture will bring national leaders to the College to address current and critical constitutional and other legal and policy issues in education law that should be of great interest to the legal community and to our students, as well as to educational leaders, administrators, community school board members, and other civic leaders who are confronted with the practical consequences of these important legal issues in their work.

Photo credit: Joe Fuqua

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