Thirty-five years after they graduated, Marcia, CW’67, L’70, and Michael Greenberger, L’70, were invited to present their elder daughter, Sarah, with her law school diploma, a Penn Law tradition. As they bestowed the degree on their daughter, Gary Clinton, associate dean for student affairs, asked across the stage, “ ‘Did you meet in law school?’ ” Michael shouted back, ‘First Year!’”
But his simple answer belied the intrigue of their courtship. When Marcia Devins sat for the LSATs at the height of the Vietnam War, she and her two girlfriends were told that they were taking the seats of men who would be drafted. At the time, law school was an unexpected path for women. Some thought women studied law to find a husband.
So when Marcia entered Penn Law she was determined not to date her classmates. “It was a matter of pride, to have my personal relationships come from someplace else,” she explains.
During their first year, Marcia and Michael had all of their classes together. “A lot of my friends in college were women, but if I was going to have friends in law school,” Marcia says, “some of them were going to have to be men since there were so few women in the class.” Michael became one.
“It’s hard to reconstruct what the atmosphere was like in those days,” Michael says. “Women in law school were an oddity and, in many instances, an unwelcome presence. Some faculty were openly hostile to women in the class. They thought they were taking up the seat of someone who would use the education, and who could use the deferment.”
In the spring of 1968, when President Johnson lifted the graduate school deferment, many members of the class of 1970 were subject to the draft. In a class that began with nearly 200 students, only 139 graduated with their classmates.
“A lot of my memories of these times deal with the politics of the moment. Our class was consumed with war and the ‘68 election,” Marcia says. In fact, Michael says on their first date they went to see Democratic candidate Eugene McCarthy speak at the Palestra.
“We started dating in the summer between our first and second years, when we weren’t in the fishbowl of the law school,” Marcia remembers. The couple kept their relationship clandestine for the most part. (Their roommates knew.) They tried to get away from campus on their dates, spending time in Society Hill. “We came to the conclusion that a relationship would fall apart under the scrutiny of our classmates,” says Michael.
By the following summer, marriage was on their minds. But Michael, who was in ROTC, was concerned about his military obligation: Was it fair to Marcia to get married if he would be sent to Vietnam? “In late May, I was anticipating going to a military training facility for six weeks for the equivalent of basic training.”
Instead, Uncle Sam released him. “Suddenly from getting ready for third year service and a two year commitment, which surely would have included combat in Vietnam, I’m told that I did not need to go. My world had turned; life had changed completely.”
And so, Michael proposed. “We had a very small window,” says Michael, who, as editor in chief of the Law Review, had to return to campus about a month before his classmates. “We had to be married on July 19th in order to take a one week honeymoon and return to school on time.”
“When we came back married, people were astounded,” Michael says. Their subterfuge had worked.
Despite the hurried nuptials, the couple has been married for almost forty years, and together they have raised two daughters, Sarah, who graduated from Penn Law in 2005, and Anne, who earned an undergraduate degree from Penn in 2000.
“It was a chaotic period, but the law school was a warm and hospitable environment that fosters collegiality among classmates,” says Michael. “We give Penn Law a pat on the back for being a nurturing environment that helped our relationship substantially.”