In June, 2018, Kathryn Kolbert stepped down from her position as the Constance Hess Williams ’66 Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, which she founded in 2009. She also served as a Professor of Leadership Studies, and a Term Professor of Political Science during her time at Barnard.
A public-interest attorney, journalist, and executive in the not-for-profit world, she has been recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” and by The American Lawyer as one of 45 public-interest lawyers “whose vision and commitment are changing lives.” In 1992, Kolbert argued the landmark case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the U.S. Supreme Court and has been credited with saving Roe v. Wade with what CNN’s Legal Correspondent Jeffrey Toobin has called “one of the most audacious litigation strategies in Supreme Court history.”
Before joining Barnard, Kolbert was the President and CEO of People For the American Way and its foundation, two of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations. For ten years, she developed and managed a program on law and American life at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. She was the executive producer of NPR’s Justice Talking, an award-winning public radio program and its educational website, JusticeLearning.org.
During her legal career, she was a co-founder and vice president at the Center for Reproductive Rights, the State Coordinating Counsel of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project in New York and a Staff Attorney with the Women’s Law Project and Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. A graduate of Cornell University, College of Arts and Science and Temple University School of Law, Kolbert has lectured at colleges and universities across the nation and is a frequent commentator on leadership, constitutional, and women’s rights issues in the national media.
Currently, Kolbert is the Producing Director of the Athena Film Festival, dedicated to films portraying fierce and fearless women, which she co-founded in 2010. She also serves as an advisor to Brava Investments and VoteRunLead, and provides strategic consulting with senior leaders in higher education and the health care and non-profit sectors.