Professor Patricia A. O’Hara joined the faculty of the Law School in 1981, received tenure in 1987 and became a full professor in 1990. That same year she was elected by the University’s Board of Trustees as vice president for student affairs, the first woman to serve as an officer of the University. As vice president for student affairs, O’Hara had oversight responsibility for eleven departments responsible for student life outside the classroom, as well as the University’s undergraduate residence halls and graduate student housing. In 1999 she was appointed dean of the Law School and served in that capacity for ten years. During her tenure as dean, the $57.6M construction of Eck Hall of Law and renovation of Biolchini Hall were conceived, designed, and funded.
Following a sabbatical, O’Hara returned to the faculty during the 2010-2011 academic year. Her areas of academic interest include business associations and securities regulation, as well as higher education in general and legal education in particular as informed by her administrative experience.
O’Hara served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) from 2005-2011 and as Council Secretary from 2011-2013. During her tenure on the LSAC Board, she chaired the Test Development and Research Committee of that organization from 2009-2011, and she chaired the 2010 LSAC Nominating Committee. During her tenure as dean, she chaired the Section for the Law School Dean of the American Association of Law Schools in 2008, co-chaired the Dean’s Workshop at the 2007 mid-year meeting of the American Bar Association, chaired the Nominating Committee of the American Association of Law Schools in 2005-2006 and served on a variety of other committees for both organizations, including the AALS Committee on Bar Admission and Lawyer Performance and planning committees for the ABA’s annual seminar for new law school deans. Prior to her service as a University officer and dean, she served as a member of the Committee on Infractions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from 1988-1990.
Closer to home, O’Hara served as a member of the Lay Review Board for the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops from 2002-2011. She currently serves as a member of the Advisory Board to Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education.
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a summa cum laude undergraduate of Santa Clara University, O’Hara was a Kiley Fellow at Notre Dame Law School. She graduated from the Law School summa cum laude and first in her class in 1974. Prior to entering the academy, she practiced corporate law for six years with Brobeck, Phleger, and Harrison in San Francisco.
O’Hara has received a number of awards recognizing her service to the University, the Law School, and the Congregation of Holy Cross, as well as her deep commitment to Notre Dame’s distinctive mission. The Congregation of Holy Cross presented her with the Howard J. Kenna Award in 1997 and with one of the inaugural Spirit of Holy Cross Awards in 2008. She received the St. Thomas More Award from the Notre Dame Law Association in 2009. The Notre Dame Alumni Association chose her as the 2010 recipient of the James E. Armstrong Award. Father John Jenkins honored her with the 2010 Presidential Award for her service in the spirit of Father Edward Sorin, the University’s founder.