“Women can lead!” is the most important thing Chief Justice Maura Corrigan learned at Marygrove College. Then, Corrigan set out to prove that it was true.
As a woman entering a field then largely dominated by men, Corrigan has earned the honor of being the first woman in several key positions. She was the first woman to serve as Chief Assistant United States Attorney and the first woman to serve as Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals.
“Maura has optimism and faith,” according to Justice Robert P. Young. “Both are infectious. These characteristics allow her to accomplish that which the more pessimistic among us would not even attempt.”
Corrigan was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1998 for an eight-year term. In January 2001, she was elected by her colleagues to a two-year term as Chief Justice, then in 2003, re-elected to serve in that position through 2004.
Corrigan graduated magna cum laude from Marygrove College in 1969, then cum laude from the University of Detroit Law School in 1973.
“I met Maura when I entered Marygrove as a wide-eyed freshman in 1968,” recalls classmate Kathleen Alessandro. “At that time Maura was a junior in the Sociology department. She possessed a sense of decency and justice that provided leadership within our department during turbulent times. This passion for justice combined with her keen intellect set the standard both for our department and for Marygrove.
”Corrigan served as a law clerk to Judge John Gillis of the Michigan Court of Appeals. She worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County from 1974 to 1979. In 1979, she became Chief of Appeals in the United States Attorney’s Office in Detroit and she was promoted seven years later to Chief Assistant United States Attorney. In 1989, she became a partner in the law firm of Plunkett & Cooney, and within three years, Governor John Engler appointed her to the Michigan Court of Appeals, where she was elected to successive terms in 1992 and 1994. After she received the nomination of the judges of the Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court appointed her Chief Judge of that court in 1997. She served two years as Chief Judge before her election to the Supreme Court.
“I have had the privilege of appearing before Chief Justice Corrigan when she sat on the Michigan Court of Appeals and on the Michigan Supreme Court,” said Carolyn M. Breen ’73. “She has always treated those before her with the utmost respect. She has a brilliant mind and uses it to protect society. As a Wayne County assistant prosecutor, I appear before her and have always found that she does what is right, whether it’s protecting the rights of defendants or the rights of victims. Chief Justice Maura Corrigan is truly a model of the Marygrove Woman.”
In spite of a grueling workload, Corrigan freely gives her time to many community and professional activities. Currently, she is vice-president of the Conference of Chief Justices, the chair of the Conference of Chief Justices Problem Solving Courts committee, a faculty member of the American Inns of Court, and a member of the Pew Commission, which investigates foster care issues in the U.S. She is a past president of both the Incorporated Society of Irish American Lawyers and the Detroit Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. She also has served on the board of Boysville of Michigan.
Public accolades and accomplishments aside, Corrigan is most proud of her marriage to her late husband, Joe Grano, and of her two children. “I have been blessed with a wonderful supportive family and hope to inspire my children to become great parents,” she said.
“The gifted professors like Sisters Amata, Elizabeth Mary and Christina opened our minds and our hearts to the world’s needs and the certain knowledge that we had the talent to respond,” Corrigan recalls. Her advice to college students today is simple. “Find what you love and do it with your whole being.”