Eileen Haughey Searls, J.D.: 1925-2019

Law professor emerita Eileen Haughey Searls, J.D., director of the Omer Poos Law Library for 48 years, died Jan. 6, 2019, at the age of 94. She was the first woman law professor at Saint Louis University School of Law to be promoted to full professor and the first to receive tenure, and is credited with building the library's vast collection.
Maria Tsikalas | Tue Jan 8, 2019


Law professor emerita Eileen Haughey Searls, J.D., director of the Omer Poos Law Library for 48 years, died Jan. 6, 2019, at the age of 94.

Professor Searls is credited as the person who built the law library, and she paved the way for women in legal education, becoming the first woman promoted to full professor in 1964 and the first to receive tenure at SLU LAW.

Eileen Haughey Searls, J.D., director of the Omer Poos Law Library for 48 years, died Jan. 6. SLU file photo. 

Born in 1925, Eileen Haughey Searls received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1948 and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin College of Law in 1950. She obtained her M.S.L.S. from the University of Wisconsin School of Library and Information Studies in 1951 and joined the Saint Louis University law library faculty in 1952, where she remained until her retirement in 2000, at which time she was named professor emerita.

Searls, described as a “globe-trotting, adventurous bibliophile,” joined the law library in 1952 after the school had reopened following World War II. Her contribution to SLU was chronicled in the bicentennial book Always at the Frontier: Saint Louis University 1818-2018. Excerpt:

“Searls was a visionary regarding technology, networking, and the usage of space. She advised architects, secured the library status as a federal depository site, and was the sole reason SLU was among the first 10 users of WestLaw and Lexis/Nexis in the United States. She was especially committed to interlibrary cooperation. Working on a tight budget, Searls built an impressive collection including numerous titles in international law, supporting specialized centers, the Jewish Law Center, the Smurfit Irish Law Center, and the Polish Law Collection. … She was a ‘trailblazer’ in every sense of the word.”

Professor Searls also was an active mentor for young women attending law school. In the 1970s when there were still few women attending SLU LAW, Searls was known for hosting an annual dinner at her home for all the women students, as well as for her active role in the Women's Law Student Association. She also made it a priority to mentor younger faculty members.

“Eileen actually gave me tutoring sessions,” said professor emerita Sandra H. Johnson, J.D., former interim dean of the School of Law and former SLU provost. “She would come in my office and sit there for an hour and talk about what it meant to be a SLU LAW faculty member, what it meant to be a part of this community. It was like being part of Cardinal Nation talking to Eileen.”

Upon Searls’ retirement in 2000, several faculty members and administrators penned tributes to her and her impact in the Saint Louis University Law Journal, volume 44, issue 3.

Then-dean and professor of law Jeffrey E. Lewis, J.D., wrote:

“Today, as in 1952, Eileen's library is more about the people at Saint Louis University School of Law than it is about books and computers. Her former assistants manage their own law libraries throughout the country. Her former student workers include deans, judges, community leaders, and practicing lawyers. The common link is that of Eileen's guidance and direction, as well as her love of knowledge through books. … The name of ‘Eileen Searls’ is synonymous with ‘Saint Louis University School of Law Library.’ Her span of forty-eight years of leadership and dedication will remain with us indefinitely.” 

Professor Searls shaped law libraries across the country as a co-founder of the Law Library Microform Consortium and Mid-America Law School Library Consortium. She was also the founding chair of the Council of Law Library Consortium; a chairman of the Conference of Law Libraries of the ASCU; and served as a member of the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, and the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians.

In 1995, Searls established the McDonough/Immel Law Library Endowment, which provides funds for library staff for courses or educational programs related to information access or other topics to support the educational mission of the law school. As a professor emerita, Searls continued giving back. In 2010, she established the Eileen Searls Book Award to support law school staff members continuing their education by contributing toward their book purchases, and established a separate award for law library student workers the following year.

In 1987, the Women's Commission of Saint Louis University named Searls Woman of the Year. In 1999 she was awarded the prestigious Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 2015, Searls was inducted into the inaugural class of the SLU LAW Order of the Fleur de Lis Hall of Fame, the school’s highest honor.

Wake and funeral services will be held in Maryland; arrangements are pending.