Judge Anita Crawford-Willis '86 named Woman of the Year

March 06, 2014

Judge Anita Crawford-Willis '86, a respected member of the legal community who is devoted to nurturing student leaders, is the law school's 2014 Woman of the Year.

A standing-room-only crowd of lawyers, judges, students, alumni, and others whose lives have been touched by Crawford-Willis turned out to honor her at the Rainier Club. The award is given each year by the Seattle University School of Law Women's Law Caucus.

"We are here today to honor a remarkable woman," Dean Annette E. Clark '89 said. "Anita is the quintessential servant-leader."

Anita Crawford-WillisCrawford-Willis, assistant chief judge for the Office of Administrative Hearings in Seattle, has been an active member of the legal community in King County for more than 25 years. Her spirit of public service, coupled with her commitment to inspire young people to pursue their scholastic dreams, makes her a highly sought-after mentor. Judge Anita, as she is affectionately called, is dedicated to enriching the lives of the students she meets. Many of them have gone on to successful careers and were in the audience.

"My mentees are also mentors," Crawford-Willis said, "so we're keeping it going."

Her dedication to mentoring comes from the caring, supportive women (and a few good men, she noted) who helped her along the way.

"My heart is full of gratitude," Crawford-Willis said at the Woman of the Year Luncheon. "I have never been turned down by a woman when I have asked for help. Whenever I needed a hand, all I had to do was put my hand out and there was a hand waiting to pull me forward. Whenever I looked back, I grabbed the hand of someone else."

She went on to name dozens who have helped her along with the way — lifelong friends, college and legal mentors, judges, and other women who have provided guidance, support, and encouragement.

"I wanted you to hear the names of all these women so you know what a great community we have," she said.

Crawford-Willis has been a steadfast presence in the law school and Seattle University community. She earned her undergraduate degree from SU, as well as her J.D. As a law student, she was involved with Black Law Student Association and the Women's Law Caucus. She also received the Loren Miller Bar Scholarship. She served on the Law Alumni Board and the Seattle University Board of Regents.

Among her previous honors, she received the law school's Alumni Service Award, the Black Law Student Association's Leadership Award, and the Seattle University Alumni Service Award. She was instrumental in establishing an externship program with the law school, and over the years she has supervised more than 30 externs.

Crawford-Willis has served on numerous other boards, including as past chairperson of the King County Boys and Girls Club Corporate Board, chairperson of Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club, the Northwest Women's Law Center (now Legal Voice), and past president of Seattle University's Alumni Board of Governors.

In accepting her award, she encouraged everyone in the room to "grab some hands."

"We as women can change our community to make it better," she said. "We have to continue to lift each other up."