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The University of Houston Law Center Faculty

Michael A. Olivas

Professor of Law

B.A., Pontifical College Josephinum; M.A. and Ph.D., Ohio State University; J.D., Georgetown University

Michael A. Olivas was the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law (Emeritus) at the University of Houston Law Center and was Director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at UH. From 1983-1987, he also chaired the UH graduate program in Higher Education. From 1990-95, he served as Associate Dean of the Law Center; he once again served in 2001-2004. In 1989-90, he was a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin, and Special Counsel to then-Chancellor Donna Shalala. In 1997, he held the Mason Ladd Distinguished Visiting Chair at the University of Iowa College of Law. He holds a B.A. (Magna Cum Laude) from the Pontifical College Josephinum, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author or co-author of sixteen books, including The Dilemma of Access (Howard University Press, 1979), Latino College Students (Teachers College Press, 1986), Prepaid College Tuition Programs (College Board, 1993) and The Law and Higher Education (4th ed., Carolina Academic Press, 2015). Colored Men and Hombres Aqui was published by Arte Publico Press in 2006, while Education Law Stories was published by Foundation Press in 2007. In 2012, NYU Press published No Undocumented Child Left Behind. In 2013, he edited a scholarly volume on early 20th Century Tejano lawyer, Alonso S. Perales (“In Defense of My People”: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals, Arte Publico Press). Suing Alma Mater was published by Johns Hopkins University Press, on the subject of higher education and the U.S. Supreme Court. It was chosen as the 2014 winner of the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, given annually by the Education Law Association “in recognition of an outstanding article, book, book chapter, or other form of scholarly legal writing in the field of education law.” In 2020, NYU Press published Perchance to DREAM, A Legal and Political History of the DREAM Act. In 2017, Carolina Academic Press published a festschfrift dedicated to his original scholarship, Law Professor and Accidental Historian: The Scholarship of Michael A. Olivas, edited by Ediberto Román, and including chapters by twenty scholars.

He has served on the editorial boards of more than 20 scholarly journals, including Federal History and the Journal of College & University Law. In 2010, he was chosen as the Outstanding Immigration Professor of the Year by the national Immigration Professors Blog Group. In 2011, he served as President of the Association of American Law Schools, and in 2018, AALS gave him its Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education and the Law.

He has been elected to membership in the American Law Institute and the National Academy of Education, the only person to have been selected to both honor academies. He was elected to membership in the American Bar Foundation (ABF). He served as General Counsel to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) from 1994-98, and serves on its Litigation Committee and its Legal Defense Fund. He chaired the AALS Section on Education Law three times, and twice chaired the Section on Immigration Law. In 1993, he was chosen as Division J’s Distinguished Scholar by the American Educational Research Association, and AERA awarded him the 2014 Social Justice in Education Award. In 1994, he was awarded the Research Achievement Award by the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), which also gave him its 2000 Special Merit Award and in 2017 its Howard Bowen Distinguished Career Award. He has been designated as a NACUA Fellow by the National Association of College and University Attorneys, and as an AERA Fellow.

During his UH career, he served on or chaired several dozen UH, UHLC, and UHS committees, including nine national personnel searches for senior leadership. In 2001, he was chosen for the Esther Farfel Award, UH’s highest faculty honor. From February 2016 until May 2017, Professor Olivas served as the President of the University of Houston-Downtown on an interim basis.

At the national level, from 1989-1993, he served as a Trustee of the College Board; from 1993-1997, he served as a Trustee of The Access Group, Inc., the major provider of loans for law and graduate students in the U.S. and Canada. Both the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston have given him awards for lifetime achievement. Since 2002, he has served as a director on the MALDEF Board. He has a substantial and varied legal consulting practice, including representing faculty, staff, institutional, and state clients, serving as an expert witness in federal and state courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court, Circuit Courts of Appeals, and federal district courts), and joining as a member of litigation teams in educational, finance, and immigration matters.

He also had a regular radio show on the Albuquerque, NM, National Public Radio station KANW, "The Law of Rock and Roll," where he reviewed legal developments in music and entertainment law, appearing as "The Rock and Roll Law Professor." (TM) The show was syndicated on radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He lectured on entertainment law subjects to lawyers, entertainers, and trade groups. His UHLC Briefcase podcast “Entertainers Dying Without Wills,” won the Gold Webcast/Podcasts Award in the 2018 Collegiate Advertising Award competition.

After more than 38 years on the UHLC faculty, Professor Olivas retired to his Santa Fe, New Mexico hometown in 2019, where he had continued his writing and lecturing schedule. The Law Center has chosen to honor him and his wife (UH Professor Emerita Augustina H. Reyes) by naming the Olivas/Reyes Reading Room in the new O’Quinn Law Bldg. Since retiring, he has began collecting a series of Old Guy Awards, including Lifetime Achievement awards from the University of New Mexico Law School and the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, and the 2020 Derrick Bell Legacy Award from the Critical Race Studies in Education Association (CRSEA).

Professor Olivas passed on April 22, 2022.
Read more about the life and legacy of Professor Olivas.