Nancy O'Malley

As a Cal State East Bay student, alumna Nancy O’Malley discovered her fascination for politics through coursework and volunteer activity and wrote a senior thesis about then-upstart gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown. (Image: Stephanie Secrest)

Nancy O'Malley '77, first female district attorney of Alameda County

  • June 28, 2011 5:44am

The law has long been part of Nancy O’Malley’s family —her father was DA of Contra Costa County from 1969 to 1984 — but O’Malley couldn’t imagine a legal career when she was young. “I spent my grade school years in trouble for having a big mouth,” she recalls; her outspoken opinions were considered disrespectful. After high school she worked for a couple of years at a photo-processing firm before enrolling at what was then Cal State Hayward.

University life thrilled her. “Once I got there, I loved it,” she says. “The classes were stimulating and engaging.” Volunteering at a rape crisis center led her to a political science major; “I could see politics at work against victims of crime,” she recalls. O’Malley idolized Professor J. Malcolm Smith (whom she remembers as “engaging, smart, nice, and very accessible”), dreamed of an academic career, and wrote a senior thesis on upstart gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown.

 She enrolled in Golden Gate University School of Law, graduating in 1983. Nine months later she applied to the Alameda County DA’s office. “What drew me here was not so much public service as the opportunity to go to trial,” she says.

Read more about O'Malley’s career and her latest initiative, known as Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) Watch, in the spring issue of Cal State East Bay magazine. 


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California State University, East Bay is the San Francisco East Bay Area's high-access public university of choice. CSUEB serves the region with campuses in Hayward and Concord, a professional development center in Oakland, and an innovative online campus. With an enrollment of more than 14,000, the University offers a nationally recognized freshman year experience, award-winning curriculum, personalized instruction, and expert faculty. Students choose from among more than 100 professionally focused fields of study for which the University confers bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as an Ed.D. in education. Named a "Best in the West" college, as well as a Best Business School, by the influential Princeton Review, Cal State East Bay is among the region's foremost producers of teachers, business professionals and entrepreneurs, public administrators, health professionals, literary and performing artists, and science and math graduates.

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