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October 8, 2001

The Price is right

By Eric Rangus,


Ask Polly Price about her job, the School of Law’s associate dean for academic affairs, a position she took over in July, and she will matter-of-factly discuss her responsibilities—she supervises career services, works with the admissions office, meets with students and also chairs the law school’s technology committee.

Ask Price about her current activities, and she will discuss the book she is working on—her first—and readying for publication next year.

“The way I’m telling myself to do it is to think of it as a series of articles,” Price says. She has been published in journals before, but has never tackled this large of an effort. “I like the idea of a long-term project with a big subject. It’s been a learning process for me as well as something fun.” The book’s title will be Property Rights and Constitutional Protection: Rights and Liberties Under the Law.

But to see Price’s face brighten, to hear her cadence quicken, for her to sit forward in her chair when she speaks …

Ask her about basketball.

“When I tell people about our team, I say that we were short and slow, and that is just death for a basketball team,” says the 5-foot-3 Price, an alumna of Emory College, her voice a mix of joyful reminiscence and wry humor. “Our team” is the Emory Eagles women’s basketball team of 1985–86, Price’s senior year. The squad was the University’s first to have uniforms, a 12-game intercollegiate schedule and even a van for transport.

Prior to that year (and for Price’s first two years on campus) the Emory women’s basketball team was more a theory than anything else. A club-level activity, the team scratched out games against other local colleges (Agnes Scott, for instance), but didn’t have any formal organization. It did produce two current faculty members, though: Price and Carol Terry, an assistant professor of medicine.

While the 1985–86 team was still a club team (varsity play wouldn’t come to campus until 1988), but it was much more organized—but still a little rough around the edges. Senior Kim Craddock and coach Phil James (an employee of Residence Life) set up the schedule. Some games saw only five players dress and of the 12 games the Eagles suited up for they won … none.

“We had about six fans,” says Price, the team’s point guard. “We called them the Iron Six, and two of them were my roommates.”

Price’s most entertaining story about that year concerns a trip the team took to Milledgeville to play Georgia College—a school with scholarship athletes, clearly an inhumane test for nonscholarship Emory. The term Price uses to describe the game befits the vivid vocabulary of a law professor: “blood bath.”

“We had no business even playing them,” she says. “We got beat 112 to 38. That number is seared in my brain. And it was the only Emory score The Atlanta-Journal Constitution ever printed the whole year.”

Later in the year, Emory had scheduled a home game against Georgia College. It didn’t happen. “We called them and said, ‘You can come, but we won’t be here,” Price laughs.

The team finished 0–12 and didn’t even dig up a victory when it squared off against the Emory yearbook, which lost its team photo. “We were crushed, totally crushed,” Price says. “We never managed to win, but we had a great time.”

Don’t get the idea that Price’s college career consisted only of hoop dreams, however. She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American history during her four years at Emory. A Bobby Jones Scholar her junior year, Price spent two semesters studying at St. Andrews in Scotland.
She now sits on the committee that chooses current Jones Scholars.

“It’s always inspiring because they are so much better students that I was,” says a clearly modest Price, who was Phi Beta Kappa and a teaching fellow while a law student at Harvard. “Having to pick from that group—we send four out of 12 to 15 finalists—is always a very tough job.”
Interestingly, Price did not attend Harvard with the goal of becoming a high-powered lawyer.

“I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to be a law professor,” she says. “Once I got to law school, I was skeptical about whether I would like practicing law. As it turned out, I loved it, and I still do.”

After graduating from Harvard, Price clerked two years with the 8th Circuit Court and was based in Little Rock, Ark., just down the road from her hometown of Russellville. After her clerkship, Price practiced law for five years, doing primarily appellate work.

“It was really an inspiring time, and that made it a tough decision when I had the opportunity to go into teaching,” Price says. “But I’m glad I did it. The transition has been wonderful, and I’m very happy with what I do here at Emory.”

Price joined her alma mater’s law faculty in 1995. Now an associate professor, she teaches courses in torts, legal methods and American legal history. Prior to this year, she taught three-to-four classes a year, but with her associate deanship responsibilities taking up a great deal of effort, her workload has been whittled to one class—the legal methods course—for the time being.

Some of Price’s favorite experiences, she says, have been her opportunities to travel abroad. Last summer, she taught a class in Dresden, Germany, and this past April she was the sole U.S. representative at a conference in South Africa in which the attendees were tasked to train that county’s judges and magistrates in their new civil rights laws and legislation.

“I love being on this side,” Price says not about the desk she is seated behind but rather the larger idea of being a faculty member of a school where she spent her college days.

“For years I was paying tuition to Emory College; I had some loans that I was still paying back as of a few years ago,” she continues. “When I was a lawyer, I loved the fact that I was making more money than I ever paid in tuition to Emory. I’m always grateful for that, because I feel that Emory made that possible.”

Price pauses for just a breath. “I’ve gotten far more from Emory than I ever gave.”


Back to Emory Report October 8, 2001