Betty L. Jeppesen

In the early 1980s, a law degree became Betty L. Jeppesen’s ticket to respect in a predominantly man’s world.

Betty L. Jeppesen’s legacy with The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law (COL) dates back to the early years, the days when J.D. students were gathering in makeshift quarters at a small campus in the foothills by Mission Santa Barbara.

“Law school was in a school,” says Jeppesen, a 1981 graduate who began studying at the original Santa Barbara campus in the 1970s. “We sat in tiny desk and tiny chairs. It was rather comical.”

And yet, the Denmark native still considers her decision to attend COL and earn a law degree one of the smartest things she’s ever done—a move that opened doors for her as a woman during an era when they might have otherwise been closed.

“It really has been great for me, because I’ve been involved in so many things that I think women would not be involved with … that are more men’s prerogative,” explains Jeppesen, who immigrated to the Santa Barbara area with her family in 1962. “Somebody would actually listen to me because I had a law degree, and otherwise, they wouldn’t.”

Jeppesen’s career started while she was still a student at COL, working as a law clerk with the Santa Barbara firm of Goux, Romasanta & Cappello. She was hired on as an associate when she passed the bar exam in 1981.

“Then Tony Romasanta, who was one of the partners, asked if wanted to be in-house counsel for his company, Islay Investments.”

She worked 32 years for Islay, which owns apartment buildings and other properties, until she joined the Law Offices of John J. Thyne III in 2014. In addition to working for Thyne as an associate, she is also a broker associate and attorney for Goodwin & Thyne Properties.

Jeppesen has won a number of accolades for her work, including Santa Barbara Women Lawyers' Attorney of the Year in 2006. She has also been president of several legal organizations in Central California, including the Santa Barbara County Bar Association, Santa Barbara Women Lawyers, Santa Barbara Women Lawyers Foundation Board, and the Santa Barbara County Bar Association Foundation Board.

“It’s been fascinating,” says Jeppesen, adding that she will be forever grateful to COL for opening those first doors for her. “The school is really good about telling graduates that you can do anything you want to do. Just go for it.”