The NSU community was invited to join the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences in welcoming Erin Brockovich to Nova Southeastern University. The event, which was part of the college's Distinguished Speakers Series, took place on Thursday, November 1, 2007, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the Miniaci Performing Arts Center.
Erin Brockovich has been lucky, but she earned her luck. A movie about her first great legal case made her famous around the world, even though she has never been a lawyer. Julia Roberts won an Oscar for portraying her as a spunky, sassy legal assistant with endless determination, but she might have underplayed the role. Erin Brockovich, the 2000 movie, portrayed a woman only a wide screen could contain.
Raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Brockovich earned her associates in applied arts degree at a business college in Dallas, Texas. She later studied to become an electrical design engineer while competing in beauty pageants, and only fell into a legal career when she needed to support herself and her three children.
As a file clerk in the law firm of Masry and Vititoe, Brockovich came across medical records in a file on a pro bono real estate case and began to look into the matter. Her investigation revealed that the health of many people from Hinkley, California, had been compromised for decades by exposure to Chromium 6, a toxic chemical that had leaked into the groundwater from the nearby Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Compressor Station. The biggest direct action lawsuit of its kind forced the giant utility in 1996 to make the largest legal settlement in U.S. history, paying out $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents.
Brockovich has a startling memory that, like most of her strengths, she earned the hard way. She memorized all 634 plaintiffs' names and cases in the legal action represented in the movie because she has severe dyslexia and would have had great difficulty comprehending such a long list on paper. Brockovitch now serves as President of Brockovich Research and Consulting. She continues to have great empathy for the environment. She said, "I do care a great deal about the environment but my real work and my greatest challenge is trying to overcome deceits that end up jeopardizing public health and safety."
In addition to a small role as a waitress in the film that bears her name, she has also hosted a Lifetime series, Final Justice, a reality drama series about women who have faced great challenges. Brockovich next hosted ABC's Challenge America, which motivated people to support charitable causes. She has also published a book, Take It from Me, Life's a Struggle but You Can Win, and worked as a consultant.
Links to more information about Erin Brockovich: