Mary Doyle grew up in Wisconsin the daughter of James Doyle, a federal district judge who helped found the Americans for Democratic Action. Her mother, Ruth, served in the Wisconsin legislature — the first woman from her county to be elected to that state’s assembly. Her brother, Jim, was the 44th governor of Wisconsin from 2003 to 2011.
Little wonder Doyle, a retired University of Miami School of Law dean and professor, would achieve success in the legal, educational and governmental communities.
Doyle, who died Dec. 14 at age 73 in Milwaukee of complications from Parkinson’s disease, was the first woman to serve on the faculty of the University of Arizona College of Law in 1974. She served as deputy general counsel of the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Jimmy Carter administration in the late 1970s.
Doyle was also the University of Miami’s law school dean from 1986 to 1994 and interim dean in 1998-99. In 1991, she brought Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan on board to teach constitutional law and legal theory for two years.
Doyle took a leave from the campus in fall 1999 through the end of President Bill Clinton’s administration in early 2001. There, she served in the U.S. Department of the Interior as acting assistant secretary for water and science.
In that capacity, Doyle assisted Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to draft interagency plans from almost two-dozen government agencies. This, the Miami Herald reported in 2000, was an unprecedented plan to restore the ecosystem of South Florida, the Everglades and Florida Bay, and secure a long-term water supply.
“This group will be a piece of cake compared to running a faculty meeting,” Doyle quipped in the Herald article.
“Mary taught me how to see the need for a big vision,” Babbitt told the University of Miami for Doyle’s obituary. “She wrote the legislation, and I thought it would never get passed. She stepped forward in that wonderful, welcoming, enthusiastic way and told me I could make a big difference, and she would like to help.”
As a result, Doyle, a graduate of Columbia University Law School and a member of the New York State Commission that investigated the 1971 Attica prison riot, was named founding co-director of the University’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy in 2005.
She left footprints wherever she was but more importantly, she left a string of friends all across the world and I am just lucky to be one of them.
Former University of Miami president Donna Shalala on Mary Doyle.
At UM, Doyle taught property, land use and water law. She also convinced Donna Shalala to seek the presidency of the university, a role she held from 2001 to 2015.
The two met when Shalala was assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter administration. Doyle wanted a job in that organization and persisted until she had a face-to-face with Shalala.
“I finally gave up, and Mary Doyle walked into my life,” Shalala said in a UM tribute to Doyle. “I was trying to be polite and get rid of her, but she was funny, and I was practically on the floor laughing. Somewhere on her résumé, it said ‘environment,’ so I picked up the phone and called Jody Bernstein, who was general counsel at the EPA. She hired Mary as deputy general counsel.”
Doyle later thanked Shalala for the boost when she was appointed the dean of UM’s School of Law at a time when there were only eight women deans in the country.
Said Shalala: “She is brilliant and funny, and she is the kind of friend that you want for a lifetime. She left footprints wherever she was but more importantly, she left a string of friends all across the world and I am just lucky to be one of them.”
Doyle never lost the sense of humor she exhibited as a child, said sister Catherine Doyle.
“She was hilariously funny. She would make our dad laugh himself sick. That was among her attributes, her sense of humor, her brilliance and passion for her work — especially in the environmental area,” her sister said. “She was a dynamic, hilarious, bigger-than-life sister to have.”
In the spring of 2016, the university established the Mary Doyle Fellowship, a joint initiative between the School of Law and Abess Center. The fellowship is awarded to exceptional students admitted into the university’s joint juris doctor/Abess Center environmental science and policy Ph.D. program. These students will be known as Doyle Fellows.
Doyle is survived by her son, Joe Pickman, and siblings Jim, Catherine and Anne Doyle. A private service will be held in January. Donations for the endowed scholarship, payable to University of Miami School of Law, can be sent to University of Miami Law Alumni Office, PO Box 248087, Coral Gables, Florida, 33124.