In 2022, the University of Washington School of Law bid farewell to retiring members of its community. 

In celebration of their impacts on the legal community and countless students, learn about Anna Mastroianni, Kathleen McGinnis and Mary Whisner as they share their stories and reflect on their many years at UW Law.

Anna Mastroianni

Anna Mastroianni

Professor Emeritus
Former Associate Director, UW Institute for Public Health Genetics

“There’s no sunsetting ever,” Anna Mastroianni says of her retirement. “You can’t be a curious person and ride off into the sunset. There’s always a sunrise on the horizon.”

The daughter of two ob-gyn physicians in Philadelphia, Mastroianni completed two bachelor’s degrees and a J.D. in 1986 at the University of Pennsylvania. and later a UW master’s in public health degree while working at a law firm after her husband was recruited by Microsoft to the Seattle area.

“My first 10 years after law school stimulated my interest in the impact and power of law on the public’s health,” Mastroianni says. She practiced in the Washington, D.C. area as a healthcare attorney working with law firm clients, the federal government, and nongovernmental and advocacy organizations.

Her most formative experiences included leading a National Academies of Sciences study on women’s underrepresentation in clinical trials and helping lead a White House investigation into government conduct of Cold War radiation research on unsuspecting Americans. Mastroianni came to appreciate the impact of health policy at the population level and got a holistic view that fortified her future experiences as a teacher and mentor. “I learned the value of transparency and accountability, and the lasting but invisible impact of prevention versus post hoc remediation,” Mastroianni says. “I learned not only consensus but compromise, and the value of apology.”

She credits UW Law Professor Pat Kuszler for her start in teaching. Kuszler was building a health law program and offered her an opportunity to teach a course as an adjunct professor.

“I taught Beginning of Life for two years and was then competitively hired for an interdisciplinary position in health law and public health — it was a tenure track position in law but with major commitments to what is now known as the Institute for Public Health Genetics,” Mastroianni remembers. “Factoring in public health sciences, genetics, bioethics, and economics totally fit into my conception of what health law should and could be. So I’ve spent half my time at the law school and half my time at the Institute.” In addition to UW Law, Mastroianni has held multiple appointments in the School of Medicine (two departments: Pediatrics and Bioethics & Humanities), School of Public Health (Department of Health Systems and Population Health), and the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Mastroianni is the author of many scholarly books and peer reviewed publications and plans to continue that tradition. Her work has a special emphasis on legal and ethical challenges arising in research with pregnant women, family-building through assisted reproductive technologies, reproductive rights and the use of genetic technologies in public health. She is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and serves on national and international advisory committees such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; Standing Committee on Aerospace Medicine; and Wellcome Trust (UK) Medical Humanities & Social Science Selection Panel (which she chaired), among others.

Mastroianni praises the UW for being “very forward-thinking” and “more receptive than other places” about interdisciplinary collaboration. She has served on “amazing committees dedicated to removing barriers” to interdisciplinary research and teaching and has enjoyed wonderful collaborations both inside and outside the UW.

She recalls how Kuszler advocated for interdisciplinary publications (appearing in medical journals as well as law journals) as a promotion criterion for faculty. “UW is way ahead of the game in recognizing the value of collaboration in teaching, scholarship and research,” she says. She enjoyed introducing law students to her genetics students and seeing how they would initially find each other intimidating — “but by the end, they were talking to each other!”

Mastroianni notes that the relationship between teaching and scholarship is dynamic and intellectually reinforcing. “The thought, ‘How is it that I have never thought of that before?’ restructured how and what I teach,” she says. “The real cool thing about the law is that it changes. It keeps your brain busy and there’s always plenty to explore. Being a professor is one of the best jobs you could have — to have the freedom to think, come up with ideas, see them through.”

She says that students might be surprised that professors spend hours and hours preparing for new courses — it can easily be 12 hours for every hour of live teaching and six hours refreshing content. When a global pandemic hits, forcing classes to go virtual, like most, Mastroianni embraced the creative challenge, employing multiple teaching methods to support student learning.

“Some of that experience in the virtual classroom learning has already benefited students at Johns Hopkins,” she says, where she has been teaching a Law & Bioethics class for the last two years. Going forward, she plans to teach that course while continuing bioethics research collaborations as a research professor at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Mastroianni and her husband recently bought a house in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley near Charlottesville. Their children attended universities on the East Coast and now work there. “It’s a gift to be all together again, and I saw more sun in the first two weeks here on the East Coast than I had in a long time,” she says.

Kathy McGinnis

Kathleen (Kathy) McGinnis

Teaching Professor Emeritus

As UC Berkeley School of Law graduate Kathleen McGinnis recalls her transition from litigation to teaching, she glows in the satisfaction that it was absolutely the right move.

McGinnis began her Seattle career at Preston Gates & Ellis (now K&L Gates). “When I was a litigator, my favorite activities were researching, thinking and writing about legal problems — all things that teaching the law involves. I liked writing briefs and going to court, but the scrappy day-to-day fighting and phone debates were not a good fit for me,” she said. “In litigation, you are the solution to a problem your client doesn’t really want to have.”

The UW occasionally had openings, and McGinnis spotted an emergency opening at the law school: UW Law needed to add a section of the first-year legal writing course, Basic Legal Skills (now Legal Analysis, Research and Writing).

“I started the job literally two weeks after I applied. There I was, a law professor, and I really liked it,” McGinnis said, acknowledging how it fit her skill set while also producing new challenges. “Law students can be fairly critical and have high expectations, but I really liked being around the students. It was like being with clients who wanted you to be there for them.”

After that experience, she went back to work at Preston Gates, but two years later, the job re-opened. She became a full-time lecturer in 1997 and a teaching professor after two promotions. She has taught Civil Procedure and Legal Analysis, Research & Writing for the past 25 years. An expert on the federal courts and First Amendment, McGinnis has also taught Persuasive Writing. She served as Director of the Legal Writing Program in recent years.

“The late ‘90s was a great time to come to the law school because we had a new director of the Legal Writing program, Kate O’Neill, who was poised to make teaching in the program a more professional pathway,” McGinnis said. At the time, teaching legal writing was typically viewed as a short-term job, much like a judicial clerkship. “O’Neill hired several of us that year to jumpstart UW’s continued innovation.”

McGinnis cites late professor Marjorie Rombauer, widely considered the founding mother of the field of legal writing, as a catalyst for UW Law’s strong writing program. McGinnis is proud to have played a part in developing the experiential learning side of UW’s program.

Similar teaching methods were used across all sections of the first-year course, so when she and O’Neill taught the entire first-year class on their own, they decided to pursue efficiencies in what the students were learning.

“We developed a workshop curriculum and employed upper division students to lead the workshops. This peer-to-peer learning model benefited students on both sides,” she recalled. This model became the Legal Writing Fellows Program, still successful today.

With O’Neill as her peer mentor, McGinnis said the reconstruction of teaching “was like going to grad school,” because she learned a great deal about teaching writing and pedagogical methods.

“To make our pedagogy fit with best practices, we brought in a learning specialist from the School of Engineering who had experience with course design and the earlier platform for Canvas,” she said. “We learned a lot about efficiencies, what to keep in intimate small groups and how helpful upper-level students could be.”

McGinnis has always enjoyed teaching legal writing to first-year students.

“Sometimes they get lost in a sea of information in their doctrinal classes, but, in our class, we’ve always used specific problem scenarios that they had to predict the outcome for,” she said. “More than absorbing information, students were given the opportunity for applied learning.”

However, by her request, the final class she taught at UW was the Intensive Legal Writing Workshop. “I wanted to go out with a bang, teaching my favorite course,” she said.

She created the workshop for upper division students in 2011 after realizing there was no place in the curriculum focused purely on writing.

“I wanted a boot camp type of class to address the fact that some very good students come to law school without knowing how to write well or knowing how to write well but unable to articulate why,” McGinnis said. “So we focus on developing a critical eye — an ability to experience text from a reader’s perspective. I found it rewarding and fun to teach students to be great editors.”

Although McGinnis planned to retire before the coronavirus pandemic hit, she decided to hang on a little longer so she could teach in-person. She was happy to see students and faculty return to William H. Gates Hall.

“I will really miss the students and the group of people I teach with,” she said as she reflects on the transition into retirement. “My daughter is worried that I’ll miss my students too much! It definitely keeps you young to be around people who do exciting things and are full of energy.”

McGinnis has been involved in developing a cohousing community in Anacortes, with private homes for 30 households who want to share in communal activities like meals and gardening. As a member of the legal committee, “I helped tailor the condo declaration to our particular goals, so I learned about a whole new area of law,” McGinnis said. “We hope the development gets finished this summer, and I will move up there with my husband.”

In the meantime, she looks forward to a trip to Australia, the launchpad for a transatlantic trip from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope. In between, she hopes to do a lot more local traveling and sewing.

Mary Whisner

Mary Whisner

Librarian Emeritus

The prestigious Marian Gould Gallagher Award, which Mary Whisner received in 2021, is usually given to retired law library directors or presidents of the American Association of Law Librarians (AALL). But Whisner was not yet retired, nor were her significant contributions to the field in either leadership role.

“I never wanted to be a director and I haven’t been the officer of a professional association, but I’ve published dozens of articles and hundreds of blog posts [GallagherBlogs] that people have found useful,” Whisner said. I’m honored that the ways I’ve served have been recognized.”

In giving Whisner the Gallagher Award, widely considered the highest honor in a law librarian’s career, AALL recognized that people who aren’t at the top of the organizational chart can and do make valuable contributions to their institutions and the association. Whisner wrote the “Practicing Reference” column for the Law Library Journal from 1999 to 2019.

Whisner majored in philosophy at the UW and worked as a secretary in the Philosophy department after graduation. Without a lot of knowledge about legal careers or culture, she was admitted to Harvard Law School, where she became editor-in-chief of the Harvard Women’s Law Journal. She clerked for Judge Stephanie K. Seymour of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, followed by work in the Appellate Court Branch of the National Labor Relations Board. She later became a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, but litigation did not suit her. Conversations with law librarians upon the end of that fellowship led to a temporary project at Loyola University New Orleans.

Whisner then enrolled in LSU’s library school program and returned to the UW in 1988. She defines her role as one that “supports scholars and connects a variety of people to information.” She has always been interested in law, technology, and both talking to and teaching people.

From 1988 until this June, Whisner worked as a reference librarian at UW Law, serving as department head from 1991 to 2006. During her tenure, nearly 200 students have worked with Whisner and her Gallagher Law Library colleagues while getting degrees from the UW Information School’s Law Librarianship Program. Many graduates have found the practical experience in the internship program to be key to their development as law librarians.

“If I can help a faculty member get an article published or help students write a legal brief, it’s like playing third trumpet in the band,” Whisner explained. “I am not the composer, director, or a soloist, but I’m contributing to the performance.”

The reference to third trumpets comes from Whisner’s membership in the Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band, which she joined in 1992. She played clarinet, then alto saxophone, for over 20 years. As a lifelong learner, she then decided to join the trumpet section, where she has played for six years. She reports that she’s not a very good trumpet player — but that playing the last chair parts is still important to the band. Whisner’s other extracurricular interests, which she looks forward to continuing in retirement, include volunteering with the Youth Tutoring Program for lower-income children, mostly from immigrant families.

Of the many projects Whisner has supported over the years, Whisner has found incredible joy in supporting UW Law faculty by developing several extensive online resource guides. For example, when Professor Hugh Spitzer suggested providing resources to lawyers and students around Washington on our state constitution, “The library started a big project, digitizing documents and commentary from 1889 on and linking to a variety of useful sources,” Whisner said. She's worked on that digital resource guide off and on for years.

After Donald Trump became president, Professors Kathryn Watts and Sanne Knudsen quickly assembled a course to teach about the limits of presidential power. They enlisted Whisner in developing a public-facing online resource guide that includes class recordings of guest speakers. Then, in 2020, to support Professors Scott Schumacher and Zahr Said’s course “Law in the Time of COVID,” Whisner put together an online resource guide providing information on public health, criminal law, allocation of scarce medical resources, and equity issues.

During the pandemic, Whisner was amazed at how productive she could be at home, using technology like Zoom, Teams, e-mail and online databases to do her work and stay connected.

She came back to campus as soon as she possibly could, though. ““I like seeing people,” she said, “I like seeing students walk through the library, seeing them in carrels, complimenting people dressed up for an interview. So as I transition into retirement, there is a part of me that is grieving… after spending 34-and-a-half years caring about this institution and being a part of it, I will miss the people I’m used to interacting with.”

One of the routines she’ll miss the most is the weekly meeting with her colleagues in the public services department, when they share ideas, collaborate and boost team spirit, which sometimes includes laughing at corny jokes.