May 20, 2016: Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb '77, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by New England Law | Boston. Gibb served as grand marshal of this year's Boston Marathon.
In 1966, women were not yet allowed to enter the Boston Marathon. Gibb, then 23, waited in bushes near the race start and snuck on in a hooded sweatshirt and Bermuda shorts. She finished in 3 hours, 21 minutes, 40 seconds, becoming the first woman to finish the race and changing the course of women's running history. Gibb was again the top female finisher in 1967 and 1968, and in 1972, women were officially allowed to enter the race. Since then, more than 164,000 women have finished the Boston Marathon.
"New England Law was pleased to award an honorary doctor of laws degree to our graduate Bobbi Gibb, whose pioneering spirit is as inspiring today as it was 50 years ago," said Dean John F. O'Brien. "Bobbi's example of standing up for what's right and refusing to give in when confronted with adversity is a model for our students and for all of us. We're proud to count her as a New England Law graduate."
Gibb was honored at New England Law's 105th Commencement on May 20. She continues a tradition of pioneering women at New England Law that also includes the first African-American woman from Massachusetts to earn a law degree (Blanche Braxton '23), the first female lawyer to argue before the full Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (Margaret McChesney '26), and the first female police commissioner of Boston (Kathleen O'Toole '82). New England Law was founded in 1908 as the nation's first law school for women.
"The practice of law is so important to helping people and making the world a better place by protecting our freedoms and allowing our democracy to function," Gibb said. "New England Law has long supported the advancement of women in the legal world, and I'm proud to be part of that legacy."
An effort is underway to install a sculpture of Gibb along the Boston Marathon route.