Joyce M. Burg–Class of 1926 Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law
By all accounts, attorney Joyce M. Burg was sharp, capable, and quick-witted, inside and outside the courtroom. “People tell me that I just don’t seem to be able to act my age!” she quipped in a 1994 edition of the University of Texas Law School Foundation’s annual report. The publication featured a one-page piece on Burg, commending her longtime commitment to the Law School since her graduation in 1926. As one of only four women in her class, she was a pioneer in the legal field who went on to become the the first female attorney in Houston—the “grand dame of Houston’s family law section”—and, in time, the oldest member of the Houston Bar Association.
If her childhood was any indication, Burg was destined to pave the way for future generations of women to excel. At the age of 15, she was already marching with her suffragette mother for the right to vote, an experience she credits with teaching her that she “didn’t have to think like everyone else.”
Certainly, in an era when most women were secretaries, clerks, or teachers (she herself spent a few years teaching English and Spanish), her decision to attend law school simply “because it was a challenge” was a courageous one. Unable to find legal work in Houston after graduation, Burg moved to New York City to work for a title company. But when the Great Depression hit, Burg realized that “at heart [she] was really a Texan who wanted to come home”—so she did, to Houston, in 1933. From then on she worked tirelessly to give a voice to the underrepresented, eventually opening her own family law office, where she continued to practice for over 60 years.
Joyce M. Burg, the first female attorney in Houston.
In 1992, Burg created the Joyce M. Burg – Class of 1926 Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law after decades of providing support to the Law School’s Annual Fund and service to its Alumni Association. Before she passed in 1997, Burg was awarded the University of Texas Law Alumni Association 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award, and garnered numerous other recognitions for her distinguished service to the legal profession. Throughout her life,
Burg was a champion for the marginalized, sponsoring and resettling families fleeing Nazi Germany and Communist China in addition to advocating for her clients in the courtroom. Her dedication to the University of Texas Law School was inspiring, and her commitment to the legal field was unparalleled. “The world gave me my education and I wanted to repay deserving students with my contributions,” Burg remarked about the scholarship. “I am grateful to be able to help the Law School.” Burg’s generosity will enable generations of students to pursue their law degrees, cementing her legacy and keeping her enterprising spirit alive.