Ann Marie Tracey joined the faculty of the Williams College of Business this year after spending 14 years as a common pleas court judge, and working as an attorney for the city of Cincinnati and the U.S. Attorney’s office. As the lone Democrat on a Republican-dominated court, she nonetheless was elected to the job three times after an initial appointment. Among the more notorious cases she handled: the Home State Savings Bank scandal, the precursor to the S&L crisis in the 1990s. Tracey now teaches business law and ethics.
Why leave the bench and start teaching? I see it as a switch to something about which I have always been passionate. I was diverted from teaching and ended up going to law school not so much as a choice but as a default. I always wanted to get a job as a college professor. It just took me a while.
What unique perspectives do you bring to the job? What I’m teaching is what I’ve been doing. The substance of the law is what I’m well acquainted with. I brought all my decisions with me. In class we do a huge segment on white-collar crime and sentencing guidelines. In business we’re talking about Enron and WorldCom. And some of the law we discuss I’ve had hands-on experience with. It’s a really nice combination of my two careers.
What do you want your students to learn? Our college mission statement—to educate students to improve organizations and society—is consistent with the Jesuit tradition. That’s a powerful punch if we as faculty members carry that out. The message is one of accepting responsibility for the impact of decisions on your company and others. If you make shoes cheaply in Asia and it benefits stockholders, is that ethically responsible? You have to consider the other effects. It seems we’ve tolerated this decline in ethics in favor of profit. Ethics isn’t something you’re born with. You have to teach it.