For the past 25 years, the bookstore at Boalt Hall has been known as a haven of support, encouragement, and laughter thanks to manager Joyce Hall. It was therefore a fittingly affectionate gesture to rename it the Joyce Hall Bookstore in the wake of her recent retirement.
“The idea received unanimous support because Ms. Joyce, with her warm smile and hugs, has been the heart of this institution for so many years,” says Class of 2008 co-president Hector Huezo. “It was great to see the Boalt community, alumni, students, and administrators come together to do something that has been discussed for many years.”
The bookstore has been and will long be known as Hall’s domain. She provided comfort and counsel to 1Ls struggling with their adjustment to law school, worked diligently to accommodate wide-ranging requests from faculty and staff, and even had students stay on her living room couch while they searched for housing at the start of the school year.
When students could not make it home during a holiday break, Hall brought them to her family’s house for a home-cooked meal. And when the number of interested parties began to soar, she organized barbeques of 75 to 100 guests at nearby city parks.
“I love to be around young people,” says Hall, who was honored at a crowded retirement party on February 27. “I never felt like I was doing anything extra special, but since retiring at the end of January it’s been really wonderful and a little overwhelming to hear so many kind things from so many people.”
A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Hall moved to the Bay Area in 1966 to join her two sisters. While working at Safeway, she began looking into new options and was hired in fall 1983 to help during the start-of-semester rush at the Boalt bookstore.
As fate would have it, a co-worker got injured, extending her stay for a few months. By the end of Hall’s scheduled stint, it was clear that customers—some of whom sent unsolicited letters and made phone calls on her behalf to bookstore management—had no desire to see her go. Soon after, Hall took over as manager of the bookstore.
“Growing up in Louisiana when I did, there was nothing for black women to do unless you worked cleaning up somebody’s house,” she says. ” Berkeley was like a whole new world, and finding a place at Boalt was a true blessing for me. I have such great appreciation for all the students, staff and professors who made my time there so enjoyable.”
When she became bookstore manager, Hall wasted little time endearing herself to faculty, staff and law students. The store had only sold books, but soon after offered an array of snacks, drinks, supplies, and Boalt-related clothing.
“As time went on, I went into the bookstore more often and rarely for academic reasons,” says Armilla Staley-Ngomo ’08. “It’s a great oasis for students and that’s all because of Ms. Joyce. She just has that gift of making people laugh and helping them feel better about life. Everyone knew she was genuinely happy to see them, and that she’d always help them as best she could.”
By Andrew Cohen