When Herma Hill Kay decided in sixth grade that she would go to law school, it was a radical notion for the mid-1940s. “Girls can’t make a living practicing law,” her mother told her. But Kay didn’t want to become a dancer or a nurse like all the other little girls in her class, she recalled during a recent conversation at the Metropolitan Club in San Francisco. “I didn’t want to be like everyone else.”

During her long career, Kay, 75, has found her mother had been right almost as much as she’d been wrong. Early on, for instance, she could neither get a job clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court nor an entry-level position at a Wall Street law firm. But she also outpaced her mother’s modest expectations by becoming the second woman to join UC-Berkeley School of Law’s faculty and later serving as the school’s first woman dean. She’s now in her 50th year of teaching at Berkeley.