2015 Archives

Ellen Solender, ex-SMU law professor and voting rights advocate, dies at 91


The following is from the August 4, 2015, edition of The Dallas Morning News.

August 5, 2015

Staff Writer

Ellen K. SolenderEllen van Raalte Karelsen Solender volunteered diligently in Dallas to protect voting rights and an array of causes from preventing domestic violence to monitoring fund solicitors.

She was 44 when she sought a law degree to get public officials to listen to a woman. She became a Southern Methodist University law professor, where she mentored female students and colleagues alike.

In May, the professor emeritus gave $2 million to the SMU Dedman School Law to fund a endowed chair for women in the law.

Solender, 91, died Saturday of congestive heart failure at her Dallas home.

Services will be private. She gave her remains to the Willed Body Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“In addition to her amazing support of women’s issues, Ellen had a big heart for those in need,” said The Dallas Foundation president and chief executive officer Mary Jalonick.

She supported projects ranging from early childhood to higher education to providing summer heat relief for low-income families through the foundation.

Solender told Jalonick that her family believed you had an obligation to be involved in civic life.

“She lived that life,” Jalonick said.

Solender was vice chair of Dallas’ Fund Solicitation Board in 1974 and had worked with the city’s Domestic Violence Task Force since its 1987 inception.

While Solender had many interests and accomplishments, the League of Women Voters was special, said her daughter Eliza Solender of Dallas. Solender had worked to defeat the poll tax.

“She was passionate about that,” her daughter said. “She thought people should have the right to vote.”

In 2011 she received the League of Women Voters’ Susan B. Anthony Award for her decades of leadership.

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