SBS Board Profile: Margaret Houghton

Sept. 2, 2022
student and Margaret Houghton

Peggy Houghton with her Magellan Circle Scholar in 2020

When the Honorable Margaret “Peggy” Houghton was 10, she had polio and was paralyzed. She was placed in a children’s hospital ward where her parents could visit her for one hour a week.

“Nobody told me what was going on, except the doctor who stood at the foot of my bed when he was doing Grand Rounds with younger doctors. He said, ‘This one will never walk again,’” Peggy recalled. “I found that really unacceptable.”

Peggy walked out of the hospital four months later, with the help of forearm crutches. “I worked very hard to get to that point,” Peggy said.

Peggy’s determination has been a thread throughout her life.

After high school, Peggy married, had children, and volunteered. Always longing for more education, in her 30s Peggy attended community college and later transferred to the University of Arizona. She obtained her B.A. in anthropology because she was fascinated by people and cultures.

“I love anthropology. If I didn’t have children to support, I would have gotten a Ph.D. in anthropology,” Peggy said.

Instead, Peggy went on to get her J.D. in law – with three teenagers at home – from the UArizona James E. Rogers College of Law. It was hard, she said, and she got little sleep. “I didn’t hang out with other students at Gentle Ben’s.”

Peggy practiced law in Tucson for eight years before she was appointed Judge of the Arizona Superior Court in Pima County in 1989. Peggy says her background in anthropology helped her be a better judge.

“Being a cultural anthropologist meant that I could see both sides of things,” Peggy said. “When I went on the bench, it was extremely valuable for me to have that kind of interest and care about people and their lives.”

Peggy received many awards for her work and spoke and wrote about family law issues nationally and internationally. She was a founding member of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association and was the first woman elected president of the Law College Association. She also made it a priority to mentor other women.

In addition to her volunteer activities in the community, Peggy has been involved with initiatives across campus. She’s served on the boards of the W.A. Franke Honors College and the James E. Rogers College of Law. She’s a member of the College of Science’s Galileo Circle. She’s also served on the Women’s Plaza of Honor Committee and the Women’s Studies Advisory Council.

Peggy agreed to be a member of the SBS Advisory Board, along with her late husband Bert Falbaum, because she values the study of people and, “I know everybody, and everybody knows me.”

Peggy is also a long-time Magellan Circle Patron and has taken Magellan Circle excursions to Israel, Cuba, Oaxaca, and Mexico City. She values the friendships she’s made along the way – when Peggy recently married Paul Gardner, former SBS dean John Paul Jones III videotaped the wedding.

Her priority for being involved with the college and the university is supporting the next generation of scholars.

“I care about giving students the chance to have a good education,” Peggy said. “I want them to be able to focus on their education and not worry themselves sick about paying for it. I also want students to see themselves as part of a community.”

This story was included in the fall 2022 Developments newsletter.