Marilyn Yarbrough, law prof, ex-Tennessee dean, dies at 58

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. March 11, 2004 -- Marilyn Yarbrough, a former law school dean who taught at Carolina since 1993, died Wednesday. She was 58.

Mrs. Yarbrough died suddenly but of natural causes, a UNC law school official said Thursday. She had battled diabetes, although it wasn't clear whether that chronic illness contributed to her death.

The former dean of the University of Tennessee School of Law, Mrs. Yarbrough joined the Carolina law faculty in 1993. She was a nationally recognized scholar in the areas of race and gender discrimination and had a number of professional involvements.

The one-time head of the Law School Admissions Council, Mrs. Yarbrough also was involved in the American Bar Association, the NCAA's Committee on Infractions and the board of the Pulitzer Prize. She also edited the Black Law Journal.

Gene Nichol, dean of the UNC School of Law, said that "the University of North Carolina has lost one of its greatest leaders and most prized friends. Yarbrough gave much of her professional life to us and we have all benefited greatly from her efforts, her humor, her insight and her care. Our entire community has been devastated by her loss. We have lost a close, close friend, far too soon."

Gail Agrawal, an associate dean in the law school, praised Mrs. Yarbrough's work as an advocate for students.

"She was a very active mentor in our community," Mrs. Agrawal said. "She was a true role model for our students, particularly for our female students and particularly for our African-American students."

Mrs. Yarbrough, who served as associate provost at Carolina from 1994 to 1996, was also the sort of people person that drew others together, Mrs. Agrawal said, recalling how Mrs. Yarbrough organized the law school's annual holiday lunch.

"She was the one who got us together," Mrs. Agrawal said. "She was a very outgoing, very warm person who coalesced us as a community."

Mrs. Yarbrough was divorced. She is survived by two daughters and a grandson. A memorial service for her will be held at Duke Chapel Sunday, at 2 p.m.

Flowers can be sent to Duke Chapel, Chapel Drive, Durham, NC 27708. Cards and notes to the family can be sent care of William Yarbrough, 711 Southpoint Crossing Drive, Durham, NC 27713.