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FACULTY FOCUS

STEPHEN ZAMORA

    If Stephen Zamora and his wife had not been      Dean George W. Hardy asked the Spanish-               the first research center in any U.S. law school
able to find teaching jobs at the same campus,       speaking professor to take over as director of the    devoted to the independent, critical study of
his career likely would have turned out much         school’s summer study program in that country.        Mexican law and legal aspects of U.S. – Mexico
differently.                                         Zamora, whose primary academic interests were         relations.
                                                     international trade and international banking,
    In 1978, Zamora, a native Californian of         particularly in Latin America, agreed. For the next       “The location of Houston is important, I think.
Spanish Basque descent, was looking for a faculty    15 years or so, the Zamoras spent their summers       Because Houston is a gateway in two directions,
position at a major law school. His wife, Dr. Lois   in Mexico. Along the way, he became a Senior          both for Mexicans coming into the United States
Parkinson Zamora, an English professor who           Fulbright Lecturer in that country.                   to do business, and for U.S. businesses to launch
specializes in the comparative study of literature                                                         into Mexico,” he says.
of the Americas, was also seeking a teaching job.        “I did not profess any expertise on Mexico per
                                                     se or Mexican law. But over the years, I developed        From 1995 to 2000, Zamora served as dean of
    “We were looking around for a university         an interest in and greater facility in understanding  the Law Center. Almost concurrently, his wife
with two teaching positions. It’s not so easy. That  how the Mexican legal system works from having
determined why we came to Houston,” he says.         directed the program,” he says. That greater              served as dean of the College of Humanities
                                                     understanding ultimately led to his being the lead    and Fine Arts.
    Zamora, who received a B.A. in political         author of “Mexican Law,” published by Oxford
science from Stanford University and a J.D.          University Press in 2004 and considered one of            “We suspended our individual scholarly
from the University of California at Berkley,        the preeminent texts in the field.                    pursuits to become academic leaders – positions
had previously worked at a Washington, D.C.,                                                               we didn’t necessarily seek, but which we gladly
law firm and at the World Bank, specializing in          Under Zamora’s leadership, the ties between       accepted. That was a very rewarding time, and
international business law and Latin America.        the Law Center and Mexico continued to grow,          it helped me appreciate the excellence and
Though not familiar with the city, he was            especially after the signing in 1994 and later        commitment that pervade the law school. In our
attracted to Houston’s reputation in international   implementation of the North American Free             quest to excel, we can sometimes be too self-
trade and investment, and was happy to find an       Trade Agreement. During those years, Mexico’s         critical,” he says. “In the dean’s office, one can
academic home at the University of Houston,          Foreign Ministry decided it needed to train its       appreciate the wide range of accomplishments
while his wife joined the UH College of              lawyers in specific legal issues between that         we’ve made.”
Humanities and Fine Arts, (now the College of        country and the United States. That led to a
Liberal Arts and Social Sciences).                   formal agreement signed by the foreign minister           Although he’s retiring from teaching, Zamora
                                                     and the UH System chancellor in 1989 for UHLC         will continue to direct the Center for U.S. and
    Shortly after his arrival at UHLC, then-         to offer master’s degree scholarships each year       Mexican Law until such time as Dean Leonard
                                                     to ministry lawyers, while UHLC students are          M. Baynes appoints a new director. “I want
                                                     offered summer internships with the ministry in       to continue to enhance the UH Law Center’s
                                                     Mexico City.                                          reputation as a major center for the critical study
                                                                                                           of legal issues related to Mexico and U.S.-Mexican
                                                         “And so now there are UHLC alumni all             relations,” he says.
                                                     over the world working in the Foreign Ministry,”
                                                     Zamora says, including two who have gone on to            He’ll also continue developing another project
                                                     become legal advisors to the foreign minister.        he started, the Global Law Alumni Network,
                                                                                                           a UHLC-based website that connects alumni
                                                         Not long after that, the school signed a similar  who practice law throughout the world. “We
                                                     agreement with Pemex, the national oil company        have UH law alumni who live abroad, including
                                                     of Mexico. More recently, the Law Center has          many distinguished foreign lawyers who are
                                                     reached an exchange agreement with the country’s      professional leaders in their home countries,”
                                                     National Hydrocarbons Commission, which               he says. “We want to engage with them more
                                                     regulates Pemex, and with ITAM University in          effectively through this network.”
                                                     Mexico City, one of the country’s leading private
                                                     institutions of higher learning.                          “When I joined the Law Center faculty in
                                                                                                           1978, I had no expectation that I would spend my
                                                         Zamora is also the founding director of           entire academic career on Calhoun Boulevard,”
                                                     UHLC’s Center for U.S. and Mexican Law,               Zamora says. “Luckily for me, Calhoun Boulevard
                                                                                                           turned out to be a very wide avenue that would
                                                                                                           connect me with the world.”

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