PUBLISHED:October 13, 2010

Duke Law alumnae reunited on Catholic University faculty

Donna Gregg ’74 and Karla Simon ’72 established their shared connection to Duke Law at the beginning of the fall 2009 semester, during a reception for new faculty at Catholic University of America.

Gregg, a communications law expert with more than 30 years of professional experience in both private sector and government positions, was a visiting faculty member at Catholic’s Columbus School of Law at the time. Simon, an experienced scholar of policy subjects in the fields of not-for-profit organizations, and taxation, as well as civil society, had been on the Catholic faculty since 1988.

Gregg approached Simon to see if her new colleague remembered her.

“When we were both in law school, there weren’t very many women, so women kind of knew who the other women were,” Gregg says. But Simon did not, in fact, remember Gregg.

“If you’re a third year, do you pay attention to the first years? Of course not,” Simon says.

Joking aside, Simon says she enjoys having a fellow Duke Law graduate permanently on the faculty; Gregg was named a clinical associate professor and director of the Institute for Communications Law Studies at the Columbus School of Law in August.

“We’ve had a lot of fun reminiscing about Duke,” she says. “We have several grads from other schools on the Catholic faculty, but this is the first time we’ve had two Duke grads. It just means we have a voting bloc — we can go up against the UVA folks.”

Gregg and Simon are the second pair of Duke Law graduates on the same law faculty at a Washington, D.C., law school. Gregg’s classmate, Lawrence Gostin ’74, is on the Georgetown Law faculty with Wendy Collins Perdue ’78. Many of their classmates from the classes of 1972 and 1974, respectively, also work in academia. [See full list below.]

Simon believes it is no coincidence that so many Duke Law graduates now work in academia. She credits the Law School faculty with inspiring students to become teachers.

“I think the teaching style of a lot of our professors really inculcated in us a desire to teach,” she says. “We had really good teachers like Bill Van Alstyne, Walter Dellinger, George Christie, Jack Latty, Ken Pye, and Robinson Everett. Those kind of people gave us a sense of what good teaching was. They gave us an idea about how to be a good teacher.”

Donna Gregg: Career informed by work in public, private sectors

Gregg’s position at Catholic University is not her first foray into academia. A member of the Duke Law Board of Visitors, Gregg has been a lecturer at several universities, including Duke, where she taught Telecommunications Law in 2002.

Gregg says she likes to teach and welcomes the opportunity to work with law students.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always enjoyed being a mentor to some of the people entering the profession, whether it’s at my law firm or in the government and so forth,” Gregg says. “This position brings together a number of things I’ve always enjoyed doing — research, writing articles, teaching, and working with the students.”

Gregg’s varied career includes service as senior policy adviser at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; chief of the Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau; vice president of legal and regulatory affairs and general counsel of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and partner at Wiley, Rein & Fielding in Washington, D.C.

During her time at the White House, Gregg helped prepare Ambassador Richard Russell for negotiations on an international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits at the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference. She spent a month in Geneva during the treaty negotiations with approximately 160 countries. “I’ve had many interesting experiences, but that one was really hard to top,” she says.

In 2005, Gregg’s bureau at the FCC took an active role in restoring communication to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. The bureau’s efforts included granting special authorizations that enabled broadcasters to make temporary changes in broadcast frequency power and location, monitoring where stations were on the air, and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to figure out where people needed help.

“That was a very stressful, but exciting time, and a time when we were really able to help in a very important crisis,” Gregg says. “We also developed some procedures that have been useful in other circumstances in terms of preparedness and how the industries respond.”

Karla Simon: Building civil society at root of work in academia and beyond

Simon developed her scholarly interest in nonprofit law while a Duke Law student; a paper she wrote while at Duke, “The Tax-Exempt Status of Racially Discriminatory Religious Schools,” was worked into an article that was published in the Tax Law Review in 1981. The article was cited in the 1983 Supreme Court case Bob Jones University v. United States, which established an important new doctrine for determining tax exempt status for charities.

“I described myself as dining out on that article,” she says, “because I got to go speak at all sorts of places talking about the issue and how broad or how narrow was the Bob Jones University case.”

Simon jokes that, despite the fact that she is not a Roman Catholic, she has taught at more Catholic Universities — Seton Hall, the University of San Diego, and Catholic University — than most practicing members of the denomination.

She currently serves as co-director of the university’s Center for International Social Development, which organizes a variety of activities each year related to social and economic development issues. Simon and her husband, Leon Irish, founded the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) in 1992 and the International Center for Civil Society Law (ICCSL) in 2003. Their initial objective was to do law reform work in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe regarding the development of laws for the not-for-profit sector. However, their work expanded rapidly into other countries and regions after funders heard about their efforts through word of mouth. These included China and other Asian countries, as well as many African countries, where ICCSL remains active.

Simon’s more recent scholarly work has dealt with comparative aspects of the laws governing civil society, including issues regarding the legal environment for civil society organizations in emerging democracies and transition countries. She is currently working on a book Reinvigorating Civil Society in China: A Socio-Legal Analysis (Oxford Univ. Press) that examines the history of civil society in China and the role of the party/state in alternately supporting and suppressing civil society.

“There’s been a great deal of question in scholarship until fairly recently about whether historically China had a civil society or a notion of charitable giving. The theory that it did not has been debunked by non-legal scholars more recently,” Simon says. “I’m comparing the historical sociological scholarship with laws and whether they did or did not promote associational life and charity thru and up until 1949 — that’s the historical part.

“Beginning in 1949, after communists took over, what has been the relationship of the party/state to a civil society that clearly existed prior to 1949?” she continues. “As it is growing now, what is the relationship of the party/state that alternately supports and suppresses civil society? What are the laws allowing China to do that?”

Members of the Classes of 1972 and 1974 working in academia:

Edna Ball Axelrod ’74 (Seton Hall Law), Joseph E. Claxton ’72 (Mercer School of Law), James Clifton Drennan ’74 (University of North Carolina School of Government), Anne Maxwell Dellinger ’74 (University of North Carolina School of Government, Emerita), Ellie G. Harris ’74 (University of Minnesota School of Management), L. Lynn Hogue ’74 (Georgia State University College of Law), Patrick Henry Martin ’74 (LSU Law), Lynn McClain ’74 (University of Baltimore School of Law), Charles R. McManis ’72 (Washington University School of Law), David A. Thomas ’72 (Brigham Young University School of Law), and Raymond Yasser ’74 (University of Tulsa College of Law).