Former William and Mary chancellor and Supreme Court Justice announces she has dementia

aheymann@vagazette.com

Former College of William and Mary Chancellor and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced she has been diagnosed with the early stages of dementia.

O’Connor made the announcement Tuesday in an open letter to the public.

“Some time ago, doctors diagnosed me with the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease,” O’Connor said in her letter. “As this condition has progressed, I am no longer able to participate in public life. Since many people have asked about my current status and activities, I want to be open about these changes, and while I am still able, share some personal thoughts.”

O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and served from 1981-2006. She also served as William and Mary’s 23rd chancellor from 2005-2012.

“Our thoughts are with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her family,” said William and Mary’s president Katherine Rowe in a prepared statement. “Throughout her life, Justice O'Connor has been a force for good; she was a trailblazer on the Supreme Court and also a member of the William and Mary family as our 23rd chancellor. We have no doubt she will approach this latest challenge with the same courage that characterized her long and distinguished public life”

In her letter, O’Connor said after retiring from the Supreme Court she committed to use her remaining years to advance civic learning and engagement.

“I started iCivics for just this purpose – to teach the core principles of civics to middle and high school students with free online interactive games and curriculum that make learning relevant and remarkably effective,” O’Connor said in her letter.

However, she said due to her physical conditions, she will no longer be able to serve as a civic leader.

“I will continue living in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by dear friends and family,” O’Connor said in her letter. “While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life. How fortunate I feel to be an American and to have been presented with the remarkable opportunities available to the citizens of our country.”

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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