An Early Education | Before Alvarene Owens finished high school, she could recite every U.S. president and the major historical events during their terms. “That’s the kind of education I had. Very rigorous.” Owens’ father was a principal and her mother a teacher. They taught her an education was about more than good grades and a successful job. It was about making yourself useful.
Wright Move from OK State | Owens graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1969 with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology. She moved to Dayton, Ohio—the hometown of three of her heroes: the Wright brothers and African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar—and became a juvenile probation officer. “I didn’t even know what a probation officer was when I interviewed for the job. I had a theory that kids were getting in trouble because of no love in the homes, poverty, things like that.”
Diamond-ettes in the Rough | Owens worked with a group of teenage girls who called themselves the Diamond-ettes. They were a rough bunch who fought often and fiercely—sometimes with razorblades. “They were terrorists. They would make people shake. But they were very bright, smart girls. My theory was not to break them up, but to get them on an adventure to get out of this violence.” She convinced them to stay in school. Some went on to college, some married, and they all became good citizens.
Fortunate Intercession | Owens had considerable discretion in determining the future of the children she oversaw, recommending to the judge, for example, they be allowed to reenter the community or shipped to an industrial school. She always wanted to give them an opportunity for rehabilitation. “I thought it was a blessing they came into that court. They could have the benefit of having someone to intercede in their life and confront them.”
A Good Fit | Owens enrolled in the graduate program in corrections at Xavier, an innovative program for its time that revolved around a belief that Owens shared—that offenders can be rehabilitated, and spending time in prison for petty crimes is rarely the best approach.
A Place in the Courtroom | Tired of being on the outside while attorneys determined the future of her clients, she enrolled in law school. In her legal career, she’s been a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and in 1986 founded her own firm, Alvarene N. Owens Co., specializing in personal injury and wrongful death suits.
Retirement | Now retired, Owens is enjoying a break from her workload. “These last few years I’ve detoxed from all the adrenaline.”
Hall of Famer | In 2010, Owens was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. “It was really unbelievable. I’ve been presented awards, and I really don’t casualize them at all. But this was really something.”
What’s Next | “I’m really trying to determine what my next adventure is going to be.”