Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree ’78 will be awarded the 2009 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. Ogletree is being recognized for his contributions to promoting equality in our nation’s legal, educational, and penal systems.

“Through his dedicated efforts in founding and leading Harvard’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Prof. Ogletree has marshaled the intellectual resources of Harvard Law School to help reduce barriers to the legal and other professions, and has created programs to examine issues important to a broad range of racial and ethnic minorities in this country,” said Fred Alvarez, commission chair, in announcing the selection.

“As vice dean for clinical programs, Ogletree has nurtured law students in their earliest exposure to helping real clients address legal and social issues that confront diverse and minority communities, and in the process developing the students’ understanding how the law can be an instrument for social and political change.”

The award will be presented Feb. 14 at the Sheraton Boston hotel, at an ABA meeting.

Ogletree is the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at HLS and the founder and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. Among its current activities, the institute’s Citizen Project researches and evaluates U.S. attitudes toward immigration and citizenship, and how certain laws and policies continue to raise barriers to people of color, including immigrants and foreign born residents. In other work, the institute is examining the impact of race and ethnicity on application of the death penalty, and how the legal system can help disrupt the “school to prison pipeline.”

Ogletree joined the HLS faculty in 1984. In addition to his degree from HLS, he holds a B.A. and an M.A. in political science from Stanford University.