Joan Katz, class of 1973


In this interview, Joan Katz Betesh, Brown University class of 1973, reflects on her time on campus, her pathway to law school, and the development of her career in immigration law.

Betesh speaks first about her initial attraction to Brown and to the New Curriculum as a college applicant, which she saw as a way to take charge of her own educational experience. Once on campus, she pursued a broad liberal arts education, before deciding to concentrate in Political Science.

Outside of her academics, Bestesh recalls elements of her social experience on campus, particularly her engagement with Jewish life, which mainly occurred outside of traditional student organizations in the more informal connections she made with fellow Jewish students. She mentions that it is in this manner that she met her husband, Joel, also a student at Brown.

Betesh also describes the influence of political and feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s on student culture, and how her experience as a student and perspective on topics of sexual liberation, politics, and gender-based discrimination and harassment diverged in many ways from other students on campus. Instead of popularized feminist movements, she cites her mother as a source of female strength and inspiration.

After graduating from Brown, Betesh attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania. She recalls working and the mentorship she received, but also the challenges she faced as a young mother working in a male-dominated field. She took time away from law to teach preschool, but returned to work as an immigration lawyer, where she quickly made a name for herself in the Philadelphia area. Since retiring, Betesh has kept herself active in the community — noting that a desire to stay involved in the world around her is part of her nature.


Recorded on May 9, 2023 on Zoom
Interviewed by Amanda Knox

Suggested Chicago style citation: Joan Katz, class of 1973. Interview. By Amanda Knox. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. May 9, 2023.


Joan (Katz) Betesh earned an AB in Political Science from Brown University in 1973. In 1975 she received her JD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, where she was an editor of the Law Review. Following a judicial clerkship, she joined the commercial litigation department at White and Williams LLP.

Joan and Joel Betesh ’73 got married in 1975. In the 1980s, when their children were young, Joan left law practice to teach preschool. In 1992, she returned to law practice in the field of immigration, representing individuals, families, corporations, hospitals, and universities.

Now happily retired, Joan is an active local volunteer in many capacities. She and Joel most enjoy being with their children (including Rachel Betesh ’05) and their spouses, and ten grandchildren ages 6 – 20.