Temple Law School is home to many institutional treasures; some, like the trial advocacy program, have been publicly celebrated, while others have collected the quieter accolades of gratitude and affection from all whose lives they have touched.
For more than thirty years, Barbara Bennett-Yates has been the latter, quietly serving the students and faculty at Temple Law with her trademark patience and grace. “You have been the face of Temple Law for countless students and alumni,” Dean JoAnne Epps told Bennett-Yates at a recent luncheon in her honor. “You are an important part of why Temple Law is beloved by so many alumni.” Dean for Students Marylouise Esten used a different analogy, calling Bennett-Yates “the heart of Temple Law: responsive, kind, optimistic, wise, sunny, warm, and unflappable.”
Bennett-Yates has served Temple Law as registrar since 1986, and before that held various positions in faculty and administrative support. She was first hired in 1973 as a faculty secretary, and over the next decade worked with several members of the faculty and provided support to various facets of the growing program in clinical legal education. Associate Dean Rob Bartow has known her since she first arrived. “While it was true you put students first,” he said to Bennett-Yates, “we faculty were not far behind. You never failed to accommodate us.” Noting their shared penchant for keeping late office hours, Bartow observed that he and Bennett-Yates, “truly are Temple Owls, which are most active at night.”
Born in Hope, Arkansas to a family full of educators, it made sense that Bennett-Yates eventually joined an academic community. “I love the people here,” she reflects. “I love the intelligence … I just find it to be so nice. There are all kinds of people. But when you get in an academic environment, all the people, whether they are good or bad, they’re smart.” Laughing, she clarifies, “There are so many really kind, good, loving people here at the law school. I like trying to meet their needs because, well I feel good about myself because I am able to satisfy the people I work for.”
By all accounts, Bennett-Yates has done that and more. In her three decades as registrar, she has shepherded the law school through some profound changes. In the beginning, she recalls, course registration and drop/add were manual processes. She remembers color coding different students and programs to keep track while she counted them manually, and the improvements that came with the advent of databases. As the process evolved from manual to computer-based, Bennett-Yates made sure that technology didn’t erase the personal touch. And when the process moved to the University’s Banner system, Bennett-Yates led the charge.
“Just about the time I probably should have been thinking about retirement,” she said, “my job got really exciting, because Banner came along. It was a challenge, and it made the job exciting all over again. That made it hard to retire.”
Looking ahead, Bennett-Yates says she is leaving her plans open for now. “I still love education. I even think about going to school after I leave here. And then I say to myself, ‘Oh no! You have to get off that calendar!’” She laughs. “Because the academic calendar, I’ve been living by it for a long time.”
Photo: Harold “Binky” Yates and Barbara Bennett-Yates