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Elinor Porter Swiger '51 Never Stops Supporting Moritz
Elinor Porter Swiger ’51 remembers a much different era of law school. She recalls a time before the LSAT was required, and when one could earn a bachelor’s and law degree in six years.
Swiger’s undergraduate advisor, Harvey Walker, told her she could use her last year as an undergraduate as her first year of law school. She hesitated, so Walker made special arrangements for her to take the newly developed forerunner of the LSAT to determine if law school was the right path.
“I did well so it was off to law school that fall,” Swiger said.
Swiger attributes her later success at law school and beyond to professors like Walker who gave her “unusual” guidance.
“I say unusual because my own three children went to three different colleges and didn’t get that level of help,” she said
Throughout law school, Swiger received guidance from the faculty. Nationally renowned labor law professor, Robert Matthews, offered encouragement at every juncture. Corporate law professor Elwin Davies helped her in securing a job in the chief counsel’s office at the IRS in Washington, D.C., after graduation.
In 1951, she graduated from law school along with two other women and nearly 130 men.
“As far as I can tell we were never discriminated against, but instead were welcomed,” Swiger said. “We couldn’t join the men’s fraternity but it didn’t matter as we could go to their parties. Some professors invited us, with the boys, into their homes.”
Another new feature of law school in those days were tax courses taught by practicing lawyers. This was then a sought-after skill, as tax law became more important with rate hikes.
Swiger applied for jobs practicing tax law at firms in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.
“I was offered a job in every firm, but as a secretary or librarian, not as a tax attorney,” she said.
“In those days, even big firms didn’t pay much but regarded beginners as sort of apprentices,” she said. “The theory was that they would train you for five years and if you did well you stayed.”
Swiger says that firms assumed that women would leave after five years to start a family. As it happened, she left the IRS after five years. While Eleanor cared for the baby, her husband took a new job in New York. There, she was offered a job, but because they had a baby and no nearby family or sitters, she turned it down.
“I have no regrets because I enjoyed raising the kids for those 20 years,” she said.
The leave from full-time employment to be a mom also allowed her to pursue other goals. She published six books, including travel books for children, a law-related book for junior high school students, and a high school textbook for teachers wishing to do law units. Swiger’s favorite work was a book of biographies of famous women lawyers. This included Columbia professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her U.S. Supreme Court appointment.
She returned to legal work in Chicago at the law firm of Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton and Taylor, where she stayed for nearly 30 years. The firm represented schools and colleges.
Long interested in politics, Swiger also ran for the Illinois General Assembly.
“I didn’t win, but it was a great experience that meshed with my time as chair of the legislative committee of the Chicago Bar Association (CBA),” she said.
To secure her position on the CBA’s Legislative Committee, Swiger had to take the Illinois Bar Exam, more than two decades out of law school. Again, after she passed, there were kudos to Ohio State and her terrific professors.
To show her continued appreciation, Swiger has created a three-year, full-tuition scholarship for a female student who grew up in a small Ohio community – a background similar to her own. She shares her love for Ohio State with her husband, Quentin. Although a Duke graduate, Quentin has made two estate gifts to the Moritz College of Law.
“We both feel privileged to have gotten to know so many OSU staffers over the years,” she said.