Writings that make a difference in people’s lives

Marian Yim ’79

“What do you ‘do’ with an English major?” says Marian Yim. “You learn to listen carefully and deeply and to read between the lines. You articulate what others feel but can’t express. You use language to persuade others to do what needs to be done. I never wrote a novel. Instead, I wrote legal briefs and pleadings and contracts and lectures and executive summaries and resolutions and charters and fundraising letters. Things happened because of these writings that made a difference in people’s lives.”

Marian traces the difference in her own life to the words of writer-in-residence, Leslie Marmon Silko, a Native American writer from Tucson, Arizona, whom she befriended while at Vassar College. Silko enchanted Marian with her stories about life and people of the desert. “Coming from the tall forests of the Northwest,” Marian says, “I did not plan or imagine then that I would be spending the next thirty years of my life in a place that looked like Mars. Every summer when the monsoon rains come, I still think about Leslie’s description of the dry earth bursting into bloom and the smell of the creosote.”

It is fair to say that Marian has made this world bloom as well. After law school at Cornell, she married and “sought a Sun Belt career in Phoenix, Arizona” where she was an Assistant Attorney General, Staff Attorney for the Arizona Supreme Court, an Adjunct Law Professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and Counsel to the Mayor of Phoenix. Appointed to the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency in 2006, she listens to the stories of “killers, drug addicts and child molesters” as well as those of their victims and families, “witnessing firsthand the drama of real life.”

Because she was the first Asian-American female in each professional position she has held, Marian “felt a strong desire to promote diversity and cultural competence.” As Founding President of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association, she established scholarships, training programs, and community assistance projects. She has promoted diversity and equal justice through leadership positions in the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the American Bar Association and continues to serve on local civic boards addressing education, civil rights, and economic development.