Janet Hoffman ’73 considers herself “one of the bad girls,” and she is proud of it.
“I tested the limits in every way, shape, and form,” reflects Hoffman, who recently returned to the University of Redlands main campus as part of the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies’ Kathryn Green Endowed Lecture Series. Established by the late Kathryn Green ’76, a Johnston graduate, the series invites Johnston alumni and friends to share their careers and life journeys with students and faculty.
Hoffman, a celebrated criminal defense attorney based in Portland, Oregon, was among Johnston’s first students. “We had such academic freedom, and the responsibility for our education was on each of us as individuals,” recalls Hoffman. “It ultimately developed my confidence to not be afraid of academic challenges—or any other challenges for that matter.”
She credits her Johnston educational experience with preparing her for a law career, first as a public defender and then in private practice. “Johnston taught us the academic discipline of critical thinking,” notes Hoffman, a Boston College Law School graduate. “We had to back up an argument with ideas and facts, not emotion. We also had to be willing to fail. Iconic figures like Steve Jobs are willing to take risks, and a Johnston education sets up someone for that.”
A member of the International Society of Barristers, Hoffman received a phone call from a judge in 1989, asking her to consider taking a case in which the client had been charged with murder. “I had to challenge my preconceived notions,” she says. “Because of my Johnston education, I understand how to be curious and ask the right questions. It turned out he was the victim, and because I didn’t accept what I was originally told, we were able to get to the bottom of it.”
In preparation for her recent visit, Hoffman reviewed the remarks she gave at Johnston’s 20th anniversary in 1989, as well as her original student application, her class evaluations, and her graduation contract. “It was unexpectedly poignant to reflect back on 50 years,” she shares. “It was like seeing your life in terms of your own novel.”
Hoffman credits the Johnston faculty with helping her develop key skills as an undergraduate. “They excelled in their academic careers and chose to come to Johnston during a time of social upheaval,” Hoffman notes, naming faculty like Bill McDonald, Yash Owada, Kevin O’Neill, and John Watt. “They were pioneers of an educational revolution.”
At the Johnston 50th renewal last summer, Hoffman also cited these educators as the reason she has chosen to support the Campaign for Johnston. “We received unbelievable love and encouragement from them,” Hoffman says. “And the best way to thank someone important to you is to put your thanks towards what is meaningful to them.”