Judge Pamela Ann Rymer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and a Stanford alumna who served on Stanford’s Board of Trustees for a decade, died on Sept. 21.

Pamela Rymer portrait

Judge Pamela Rymer was remembered for her warmth and humor as well as for ‘an abiding love of all things Stanford.’ (Image credit: Steve Gladfelter)

Rymer, who was 70, died with friends at her bedside, according to an announcement by the federal court. The press release said Rymer, who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2009, had been in failing health in recent months.

Rymer, who served on the federal bench at both the appellate and trial levels for more than 28 years, earned a law degree at Stanford in 1964.

“Pam Rymer was an extraordinary judge – brilliant, thoughtful, dedicated to the craft of doing justice within the law,” said Larry Kramer, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School. “She was an active and engaged alumna whose counsel benefited countless students and faculty … and deans. But above all, she was a wonderful person, quick to laugh and to smile.”

In awarding Rymer the Stanford Medal in 2010, the Stanford Alumni Association described her as “one of Stanford Law School’s most revered alumni,” and noted that she served as the chair of the Law School’s Board of Visitors, the Dean’s Strategic Council, a moot court judge and as a perennial member of the Class of 1964 reunion committee.

“She has been a tremendous mentor to multitudes of law school alumni, caring deeply for her clerks, and pushing them to learn as much as they can under her tutelage,” the award citation said.

In 2004, Rymer joined Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and Ronald George, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, to discuss threats to judicial independence during a panel discussion at Stanford Law School.

Two new scholarships – the Judge Pamela Ann Rymer Undergraduate Scholarship Fund and the Judge Pamela Ann Rymer Law Scholarship Fund – have been established in her memory.

Rymer served on Stanford’s Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2001. During her tenure, she held several leadership positions, including vice chair of the full board, chair of its Academic Policy Planning and Management Committee and chair of its Ad Hoc Committee on Athletics.

“Pam brought to her Stanford roles the analytical skills of a judge combined with her natural warmth and humor and, of course, an abiding love of all things Stanford,” said Isaac Stein, former chair of the Board of Trustees. “She will be missed but always remembered.”

Rymer served on the advisory council for the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the Alumni Association’s board of directors. She also served on the national advisory board for the Haas Center for Public Service and as chair of the board of governors of Stanford Associates.

“In addition to her history of exemplary volunteer service to and love of Stanford, Pam will forever be known on the Farm for her prodigious intelligence, no-nonsense persona, decidedly frank communication style and lightning quick wit,” said Howard Wolf, president of the Stanford Alumni Association.

“Finally, Pam will always be remembered for her love of Stanford Athletics, and in particular all things Stanford football. We already miss her dearly, and are proud to have called her a fellow alum.”

Rymer served as a keynote speaker at the Draper Hills Summer Fellows on Democracy, an annual executive education program that brings together two dozen rising leaders – in law, politics, government, private enterprise, civil society and international development – from transitioning countries. The program is hosted by the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, a program of the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Rymer, who was born in Knoxville, Tenn., was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Vassar College in 1961.

After graduating from Stanford Law School, Rymer worked on the 1964 presidential election campaign of Barry Goldwater. She began her law career in 1965 with Rus Walton & Associates in Los Altos, Calif. In 1966, she went into private practice in Los Angeles, becoming the first woman partner at the law firm of Lillick, McHose & Charles, and later starting her own firm, Toy and Rymer.

Rymer served on the federal bench at both the appellate and trial levels for more than 28 years. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, she was appointed a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 1983. She was elevated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

During her 22 years on the appellate court, Rymer sat on more than 800 merits panels and authored 335 panel opinions. She last heard oral arguments in July and her most recent opinion was filed in August. Her colleagues said her productivity was remarkable and every case received her full attention.

“Judge Rymer maintained her calendar throughout her illness,” said Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, in a prepared statement. “Her passion for the law and dedication to the work of the court was inspiring. She will be sorely missed by all of her colleagues.”

In its press release, the federal court said no services will be held, per Rymer’s wishes. No survivors were listed.

Contributions to the Rymer scholarship funds at Stanford may be sent to Stephen W. Player, c/o Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, 326 Galvez St., Stanford, CA 94305.