Student advocate, adviser and friend

Suzanne L. Richardson–a passionate student advocate whose artistry, emotional wisdom and humor left an imprint on the lives of others–died of stomach cancer on June 30. She was 55.

As dean of students from 1993 to 2004, Richardson built community at the law school by organizing retreats and scheduling “Meet the Dean” breakfasts, but she is best remembered for her sensitivity to students, whether they needed a hand to hold, someone to counsel them in the midst of grave difficulties or a friend to celebrate their successes.

“I met a lot of amazing people during my three years at HLS, but none of them touched my life quite like Suzanne,” said Ashley Morgan ’00. “She was the kind of person that you could talk to about anything and know that she was really listening and that she really cared.”

A 1971 graduate of Boston University College of Fine Arts, Richardson taught kindergarten and second and eighth grades in Winchendon, Mass., before starting a business in 1973 that drew on her art background.

She joined the law school in 1977, worked for the Government Attorneys Project, a counterpart to the Harvard Defenders, and served as administrative director of the Clinical Programs. In 1987, she earned a master’s degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and two years later, she was named director of student activities. In 1993, she was appointed dean of students by then Dean Robert Clark ’72.

“She was a tremendous problem solver,” said Stephen Kane, HLS registrar, who recalled Richardson’s ability to diffuse tense situations with humanity, empathy and humor and her willingness to go head-to-head with other administrators on students’ behalf.

Her connection to students continued long after they graduated. Through phone calls and e-mails, she kept updated on bar admissions, career changes, weddings and illnesses.

In February 2004, her own illness progressed, Richardson resigned her position, but she remained a special adviser to the dean.

“The countless ways that she positively affected the lives of the students at Harvard Law School will be manifested in the successes of future leaders for years to come,” said Tamara Yang Demko ’00. “She found her life’s calling in her students, and her legacy of love, compassion and guidance will endure.”