Elisa Massimino Joins Georgetown Law as the Drinan Chair in Human Rights

September 4, 2019

WASHINGTON – Longtime human rights advocate and former Human Rights First CEO Elisa Massimino is joining Georgetown Law as the 2019-2020 Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Chair in Human Rights.

“We’re honored to welcome Elisa Massimino as our Drinan Chair in Human Rights for the academic year,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor. “Elisa is one of the top leaders in the field. We know that by teaching our students, she will help them become exceptional human rights lawyers.”

After 27 years with Human Rights First, the last decade as President and CEO, Massimino recently stepped down from her post to join Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government as a Senior Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. She also served as a Practitioner-in-Residence at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

At Georgetown Law, Massimino will teach a course on human rights advocacy, participate in the Human Rights Institute programming, and serve as a resource to students, faculty, and staff. She will focus on equipping students with tools for effective advocacy, particularly in highly polarized political environments.

On Nov. 12, Massimino will deliver Georgetown Law’s annual Drinan chair lecture on human rights.

“The human rights challenges we face today demand a unique combination of energy and wisdom, and the movement needs bright young lawyers who will bring these qualities to the fight for human dignity,” Massimino said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to mentor the next generation of human rights advocates at Georgetown Law.”

Massimino has a distinguished record of human rights advocacy. She has testified before Congress dozens of times, writes frequently for mainstream publications and specialized journals, appears regularly in major media outlets, and speaks to audiences around the country. Since 2008, the influential Washington newspaper The Hill has consistently named her one of the most effective public advocates in the country. The daughter of a nuclear submarine commander, Massimino was instrumental in assembling a group of retired generals and admirals to speak out publicly against policies authorizing the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. This coalition of military leaders played a pivotal role in the effort to restore compliance with the Geneva Conventions standard for treatment of prisoners.

The Drinan Chair was established in 2006 in honor of Professor Robert F. Drinan, S.J. Drinan was a professor at Georgetown Law from 1981 until his death in 2007, as well as a priest, scholar, lawyer, politician, activist, ethicist and one of the nation’s leading advocates for international human rights. He dedicated his life to humanitarian causes and to improving the legal profession.

“I was one of many fortunate young lawyers who benefited from Father Drinan’s mentorship and support early in my career, and he played a significant role in my development as a human rights advocate,” Massimino said. “Father Drinan cheered me on and challenged me to be bold. It is a particular honor for me to step into this role that bears his name.”

Massimino previously taught human rights and refugee law at Georgetown Law, the University of Virginia School of Law, American University’s Washington College of Law, and the George Washington University School of Law. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. Massimino holds a law degree from the University of Michigan, a Master’s in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Trinity University.