SSL Certificate

Distinguished Alumna Award

Each year, Castilleja presents the Distinguished Alumna Award to an alumna who has consistently demonstrated the values of the 5Cs in her personal, professional, and community life. 

Congratulations to our 2016 Distinguished Alumna, Neelam Noorani '91!

This year’s Distinguished Alumna has used her profession to improve the lives of people around the globe. Neelam Noorani ’91 has traveled and lived all over the world working for various International Courts and dedicated extensive energy and time volunteering to defend and protect rights for victims of human trafficking.

 In her own words, “Castilleja gave me the confidence to know that any one person can make a difference.” It was at Castilleja where Neelam first learned about human rights, a passion she has pursued throughout her life.

 After graduating from Castilleja, Neelam attended UC Berkeley and Santa Clara Law School, then worked in commercial law for seven years. She decided to make a chance, saying, “I knew I wanted to make a difference with my time on this planet.” She moved to The Hague and worked on the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, established to bring cases against those who had committed war crimes. Following her work in The Hague, Neelam moved to Sierra Leone to work for the Special Court following the country’s decade-long civil war. She wrote an international law judgement on forced marriage, an issue that gained global attention in the years following.

Our distinguished alumna is proud the Special Court for Sierra Leone was one of the first tribunals that took violence against women seriously, making it a centerpiece of their work and representing the rights of women in war trials for crimes of mass rape, early and forced marriage, and other issues. She admires the incredible bravery of women from villages who testified at great risk and is heartened to watch organizations such as UNICEF and World Vision, who have been successful in efforts to stop forced marriages in countries around the world. While Neelam struggled to see the impact of her work at the time, she now knows it has given language for people to describe their experiences and brought global attention to violence against women.

As a student at Castilleja, Neelam knew she wanted to be a lawyer, though that would come later. She was involved in Amnesty, Debate, and sports such as water polo, swimming, track, and soccer. She is grateful for all her teachers at Castilleja, including Nancy FlowersHA for inspiring a love of learning, Jeannine MarstonHA for taking an individual interest in her each of students, and Peggy McKeeHA for her passion for her subject matter.

Neelam says, “Castilleja was an enormous influence and shaped who I became. It gave me the confidence to go out in the world” and influenced the path each of her peers would take. “In many ways it feels like just yesterday I was on the Circle – our friendships have kept up, 29 years later,” and her Castilleja classmates remain her closest friends.

Currently, Neelam is working in San Francisco with refugees on asylum cases. It is rewarding for her to know someone will get the humanitarian protection they deserve, and in many ways, her work has come full circle when she can now grant refugee status to women based on international law that came out of her work overseas.

Neelam has remained dedicated to helping others, and to her family and friends, as she continues to fight for the rule of law and to be a voice for the oppressed.


Nominate a Classmate

We welcome Castilleja alumnae to nominate a classmate for the 2017 Distinguished Alumna Award. Submissions are due by Tuesday, August 15.

Each year, Castilleja presents the Distinguished Alumna Award to an alumna who has consistently demonstrated the values of the 5Cs in her personal, professional, and community life. 

The Alumnae Awards Committee will review all submissions and make a final decision on this year's recipient.

Click here to submit your nomination today!


Past Recipients

1981 – Margarita Espinosa ’22

1982 – Pauline Chamberlain Chickering ’20

1983 – Cynthia Kaiser Roberts ’51

1983 – Joan Terbell Roberts ’52

1984 – Carol Ann Smith Tinsley ’55

1984 – Perry Bradford McGilvray ’35  

1985 – Blair Walker Stratford ’56

1986 – Onyet Geer ’34

1987 – Gail Wilson Zetter ’64

1987 – Nancy Ditz ’72

1988 – Patricia Hunter Gregory ’64

1989 – Diane Pickering Gibbs ’31

1990 – Louise Merritt Welsh ’31 

1991 – Evelyn Carey Niebel ’17

1991 – Loraine Marks Newman ’17

1992 – Catherine Clift Peck ’31

1992 – Alison Beach Cooper ’61

1993 – Margaret Ely Pringle ’71

1994 – Joanne De Phillips ’62

1995 – Anne Flatland Macdonald ’80

1996 – Anita Seipp ’71

1997 – Nancy Hoffman ’76

1998 – Sarah Wallace ’73

1999 – Adrienne Hiscox Mitchell ’44

2000 – Honor Berger Spitz ’62

2001 – Sally Stewart Harris ’76

2002 – Penny Pritzker ’77 

2003 – Heather Allen Pang ’84

2004 – Joanna Busza ’90

2005 – Elizabeth Bonn ’25

2006 – Linda Sue Little Strand ’76

2007 – Joyce Adams Hanna–Smith ’52

2008 – Jhumki Basu ’94

2009 – Christina Hansen McClure ’71

2010: Laura Arrillaga–Andreessen ’88

2011 – Kirsten Tobey Saenz ’96

2012 – Pamela Hawley ’87

2013 – Lindsay Austin Louie ’98

2014 – Cindy Swanson Miller ’64

2015 – Ursula Kinney Ringham ’90 



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