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Name unveiled for the Barrett and O'Connor Center, ASU's signature building in Washington, D.C.

December 1, 2017

By Beth Giudicessi

The name of Arizona State University’s newly renovated building at 1800 I Street NW in Washington, D.C. was unveiled today during activities honoring the project’s supporters and future occupants.

The facility, the Ambassador Barbara Barrett and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center at Arizona State University, colloquially referred to as the “Barrett and O’Connor Center,” will formally open in spring 2018.

“The Barrett and O’Connor names are synonymous with inspiration, leadership and educational excellence,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “It is appropriate that we memorialize such heritages together and pay tribute to their work creating boundless opportunity for future generations of young leaders.”

The center will play host to ASU students, faculty and staff studying, interning and working in Washington, D.C. It will be home to university programs with global and public policy focus, including the McCain Institute for International Leadership, the L. William Seidman Research Institute, the Washington Bureau of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

The center’s construction and building renovation, which were led by the ASU Foundation’s sister organization, University Realty LLC, were enabled in part by a Campaign ASU 2020 gift from long-time ASU investors Ambassador Barbara and Dr. Craig Barrett, who, like the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, have been an integral part of the Arizona State University story.

Barrett, The Honors College at ASU—called "the gold standard" by the New York Times' Frank Bruni—is named for the couple. The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU honors the former U.S. Supreme Court justice and Ambassador Barrett’s mentor.

Left to right: Ambassador Barbara Barrett and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center building rendering, Sandra Day O’Connor, Barbara Barrett

“By permanently naming the center for Ambassador Barbara Barrett and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, we highlight the strong relationship between this pair—and the linkage between two of ASU’s most impactful units, the Honors College and the College of Law,” said ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig. “At the same time, it’s a great privilege to be a part of the first facility in our nation’s capital dedicated to these remarkable individuals.”

Fewer than eight percent of all monuments, buildings or statues in the United States honor women; the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, which also has a presence in D.C., remains virtually the only law school in the country named for one.

In contrast, the Barrett and O’Connor Center credits the legacies of two women whose contributions shape public life domestically and across the globe. Fittingly, the center is located in a historic building adjacent to the World Bank, two blocks from the White House on a route frequently traveled by heads of state.

As a woman of “firsts,” O’Connor made history in 1981 as the first female justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Similarly, Barrett was the first female Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, the first woman to serve as deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and reportedly the first woman to land in an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier. She is also a trained astronaut.

O’Connor earned a degree in economics at Stanford University before graduating near the top of her class at Stanford Law School. She entered politics as a volunteer for Senator Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.

Barrett is a three-time Arizona State University graduate and earned her Bachelor of Science degree, her master’s degree and a Juris Doctor at the university. In 2008, after establishing her career in corporate law, aviation and aerospace, President George W. Bush appointed her United States Ambassador to Finland.

The two luminaries first connected at the Arizona State Legislature when then-Arizona State Senate Majority Leader O’Connor inspired then-intern Barrett to attend law school. Years later, O’Connor administered the oath of office to Barrett when she accepted her ambassadorship.

“The example set by these role models and the gifts they’ve made to prepare students to succeed create a brighter outlook for our nation and world,” said Rick Shangraw, CEO of ASU Enterprise Partners, the non-profit parent organization to the ASU Foundation and University Realty LLC.

“When students walk into a building named for Sandra Day O’Connor and Barbara Barrett, they understand that there are no limits,” Buhlig added. “Whether they aim for the Supreme Court or for the moon, they got their start at ASU. And they got their start because of the extraordinary, influential women who came before them.”

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