Thoughts and Prayers for the Honorable Mary Fairhurst

TO: Gonzaga Students, Families and Colleagues
FROM: Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil., President
SUBJ: Thoughts and Prayers for the Honorable Mary Fairhurst
DATE: December 29, 2021

It is with deep sadness that I share with you the passing of dear friend, loyal supporter, and distinguished Gonzaga alumna, The Honorable Mary Fairhurst (‘79, J.D. ’84). Mary was able to share her final moments with her family and loved ones before she passed, yesterday evening, at her home in Olympia.

Many will remember Fairhurst as a long-time member of the Washington State Supreme Court, most recently serving as the 56th chief justice from 2016 to 2020. When cancer left her too fatigued to continue on the Court, she wrote to the governor, saying, “I’m not going home to die, I’m going home to get better.” She was first elected to the Court as an associate justice in 2002, following a 16-year career working in the Washington State Attorney General’s office. She was re-elected to the bench in 2008 and 2014.

Mary was the eldest of seven children born to her mother Mary and her father Stan, each of whom attended Gonzaga University, just as Stan had. The Fairhurst family resided in numerous places on the West Coast, spending three years in Hawaii just prior to moving to Spokane in 1975, when Stan became vice president for finance, and later vice president for business (1985-1987), at Gonzaga University.

Fairhurst graduated cum laude in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She studied under Professor Michael Leiserson and Fr. Bernard Coughlin, S.J., and her adviser Fr. Frank Costello, S.J. Her undergraduate experience was pivotal to her understanding of political science, and she often stated, "My experience at Gonzaga shaped who I am. I loved all of my time at Gonzaga.”

Fairhurst stayed on campus the following year to serve as the residence hall director at St. Catherine/St. Monica Hall. She attended Gonzaga School of Law, graduating magna cum laude in 1984 with her Juris Doctorate. Fairhurst said that "the sense of service that is the Jesuit tradition" impacted her decision to serve in the Attorney General's office.

In remembering Justice Fairhurst, Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh stated, “Mary has long been a dear friend, close member, and faithful supporter of the Gonzaga family, and we extend our deepest condolences to the entire Fairhurst family. In her vocation she saw an obligation to uphold respect for human dignity, and a perennial reverence for fairness and justice. She exemplified what it meant to know and care for each person with whom she came in contact. Her legacy of service to Washington state and its people will long endure, and she will be truly missed.”

The first recipient of Attorney General Christine Gregoire’s Steward of Justice Award, Fairhurst clerked for the late Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice William Williams and Justice William Goodloe before joining the attorney general’s office. She was the second woman and youngest attorney to have served as president of the Washington State Bar Association. She also served on the Bar’s Board of Governors representing the Third Congressional District and as the president of Washington Women Lawyers. Her legal career included extensive experience in criminal justice, transportation, taxation, and labor. She headed the revenue, bankruptcy, and collections division during her time as assistant attorney general in Olympia.

Fairhurst was a loyal supporter of Gonzaga University and its School of Law. In addition to her financial generosity, Fairhurst served on many committees and task forces. She took a special interest in serving on the Myra Bradwell Award selection committee and enjoyed judging the law school’s most prominent student competition, the Linden Cup, for many years. She was most proud to serve as president of the law school’s Board of Advisors, which also brought with it a term as a University Regent.

An ardent supporter of the Gonzaga men and women’s basketball programs, Fairhurst would travel to the West Coast Conference championships each year to root for her beloved Zags. She was an enthusiastic fan of the Seattle Mariners and their mascot, the Mariner Moose, and always wore her Mariners jersey to the games. Fairhurst loved Hawaii and would visit often, having spent part of her childhood there. Upon her return, she enjoyed sharing stories of her visits. She could frequently be found wearing a flower in her hair, in the spirit of Aloha. She had a passion for life and demonstrated a determined, upbeat resilience, especially through her many battles with cancer. She never gave up and always inspired hope in others.

Fairhurst knew more people than most, but always made time for everyone. She poured so much of herself into life and received much life, and love, in return. When her doctors told her she had limited time to live, on more than one occasion, she’d remind them that “she was not dying, she was living!” — a sentiment she carried with her until her final breath.

Mary Fairhurst will be remembered forever at Gonzaga and her legacy has been permanently memorialized with the establishment of the new Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst Bench and Bar Room at the School of Law. When remembering Chief Justice Fairhurst, Law School Dean Jacob Rooksby said, “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our beloved friend, colleague, and mentor, Mary Fairhurst. Mary was a trailblazer of the profession, a continuous supporter of our law school, and an incredible mentor to students and alumni. Her kind smile, radiant presence, and unflappable optimism reminded us to embrace each person and each moment as we face challenges in both our personal and professional lives. Mary gave generously of her time and talents to the legal community and was a true Zag through and through. She touched countless lives in remarkable ways and will be profoundly missed.”

Mary could often be heard talking about the importance of believing in miracles. She was, herself, a shining example of the miracle of joy, love and leadership. Gonzaga extends its deepest sympathies to her partner, Bob, Mary’s extended family, and in a particular way her siblings Vince, Katy, Ann, Tori, Ken and Laura.

Service details are pending and will be announced when finalized.