Sandra Day O’Connor—the Stanford-trained lawyer who became the Arizona State Senate majority leader before being named the first female member of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009 and now a Federal Circuit Court judge—was looking around for something to keep her busy.
The encore to her brilliant American story was to start a nonprofit or two. O’Connor House (www.oconnorhouse.org), the historic adobe home where Justice O’Connor and her family lived in the 1960s and ’70s, and where state legislators would gather over her legendary Mexican dinners, is the centerpiece of a think tank that aims to facilitate important policy decisions through civil discussion, critical analysis of facts and informed participation.
In 2009, she founded iCivics (www.icivics.org) to reverse American students’ declining civic knowledge and participation by creating free and innovative educational materials. It even allows you to argue a Supreme Court case.
Jeff Cunningham writes about leadership and business, boards and corporate governance. He is the founder of Directorship magazine and currently serves as managing director and senior advisor to NACD. Previously, he was president of the Internet venture firm CMGI, publisher of Forbes and managing partner of the U.K. private equity firm Schroders. He has served as an independent board chair or director of 10 public companies. The views expressed are his own.