Graduated: Class of 1972
Major at CHC: History
Lives in: Salem, Ore.
Career: retired labor and civil rights lawyer
Song on repeat: Any classical piece from Carl Nielsen, the Danish composer
Coffee or tea: “Morning coffee, all the way!”
Guilty pleasure: “I read way too many mystery novels.”
Favorite memory at CHC: “Taking a class on the economics of winemaking with a few colleagues, although my credits didn’t transfer over to the University of Connecticut. Now, I look back and think about how behind the times they were.”
In 1972, Genice Rabe remembers the time she spent tucked away in a corner of the library at University of Oregon. She spent much of her time examining and translating documents written in German. It was all in preparation for her senior thesis as a Clark Honors College student on the rise of national socialism among German university students.
She had recently returned to UO after a year abroad in Germany, where she immersed herself in German culture and language at Stuttgart University. She went on to pursue a master’s degree in history at the University of Connecticut, followed by getting her law degree from Southern Methodist University. It wasn’t the path that she had initially charted for herself. But just seven years after graduating from Clark Honors College, Rabe found herself in a profession where she could make a difference as a lawyer.
“When somebody would ask me a question, I would always get the answer because I would research whatever it took,” says Rabe.
In between school, Rabe worked various jobs including as a substitute teacher. But she was looking for something “that she could always do” and that’s how she settled on pursuing a law degree. She says the communication and research-based skills she had acquired as an undergraduate were transferable.
With her law degree in hand, Rabe landed a job in Texas, working for the firm Mullinax, Wells, Baab and Cloutman. After 12 years, she moved on to become a sole practitioner until 2008. “I was a labor lawyer representing unions and an employment discrimination lawyer representing workers,” says Rabe.
After 30 years in Texas, Rabe decided to relocate to Salem, Ore. She worked as legislative counsel for Northwest Legal Justice Project, a non-profit in Portland representing immigrant workers.
“I did not have a career as a historian,” she says. “I had a career as a lawyer. But the Honors College was very important to me. Throughout my life, the experience of German history and of my thesis kept coming back, and it was very relevant. I also traveled a great deal and I think this was triggered by my CHC experience.”
Rabe’s craving for travel only grew after her CHC experience. She and her husband, Stephen Rabe, who is an author and a historian, have prioritized seeing the world. They have traveled all over Europe and Latin America.
Genice Rabe fondly recalls a trip to a village in Normandy that the couple took in May 2019. They visited the seaside area to explore familial ties and to do research for Stephen Rabe’s book, The Lost Paratroopers of Normandy: A Story of Resistance, Courage, and Solidarity in a French Village.
His father was a paratrooper during World War II and was one of 150 military personnel hidden and fed by the villagers of Graignes. In return, the paratroopers protected the village for as long as they could during a Nazi attack in June 1944. During their visit, the Rabes met the mayor, who revealed historical documents from the war as well as a daily record of the German regiment that overtook the village. To his dismay, the record was all in German and he couldn’t figure out what was in it. That’s when Genice Rabe stepped in. “Well, I’ll take it and translate it for you,” she told him.
A year later, she returned a translated record to the mayor that her husband also ended up using for his book. She credits the Honors College for pushing her to pursue her language skills and develop a passion for academic research.
She urges all CHC students to “have as many different experiences substantively with subject matter – and socially and culturally – as you possibly can. You’re most likely going to regret something you did not do over something you did do.”
Although she’s now retired, Rabe remains deeply connected to the Honors College community through her endowment of the Frank Herbert Mingle Thesis Research Fund, named after her grandfather. The fund supports students who are conducting research for their senior thesis, the capstone project for all CHC graduates. She wants the fund to serve as an encouragement to students to follow what they’re passionate about even if they lack the money for research or travel.
“I think traveling can change lives and determine people’s futures because of what they see. I am happy about that, and I hope the fund will help many people,” says Rabe.
—By Keyry Hernandez, Clark Honors College Communications
—Photo by Riley Hoerner, Clark Honors College Communications