October 5, 2016 — Pepperdine School of Law’s dean search gained steam this week with the posting of the position on Inside Higher Ed and a letter (below) by outgoing Dean Deanell Tacha to a number of colleagues throughout legal academia.
Dean Tacha’s letter:
This is a bittersweet moment in my life. After 5½ wonderful years as Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law, I have decided it is time to yield this leadership position and return to my home state of Kansas. I know, some would question the judgment of trading the ocean for the plains, but it is right for me!
I write today to ask your assistance in helping Pepperdine choose the right successor to build on our progress and secure Pepperdine’s unique place as one of the nation’s premiere Christian law schools.
I returned to legal education in 2011 after 25 years on the federal bench. (Before becoming a judge, I was a faculty member at the University of Kansas School of Law for a dozen years and served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.) As you all know, these last few years have been among the most challenging in the history of legal education. Nonetheless, I found at this law school the opportunity for which I had hoped, the rare privilege of topping off my career by working with extremely able and passionate students, a diverse and talented faculty, and best of all, a university committed to academic excellence in the context of faith-based, values-driven, student-centered community. The view at Pepperdine is fantastic, but the people are even better. It has been exhilarating for a long-time court of appeals judge to be thrust into the vibrant and cutting-edge legal, business, and entertainment industries in Southern California.
I am proud of the progress we have made in the last few years. We have expanded our dispute resolution program (ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report for 11 of the past 12 years) with four new LLM options. As a former judge, I am gratified that our graduates have secured a record number of federal judicial clerkships, including one on the U.S. Supreme Court. We are also paying special attention to professional identity formation to assist our graduates as they move into a rapidly changing legal market. I am confident that my successor will be as excited and inspired as I am about the trajectory of this law school.
If you know of potential dean candidates who would share our commitment to faith-inspired academic and research excellence, please forward their names to the search committee via John Amer at Korn Ferry (firstname.lastname@example.org), or to Provost Rick Marrs, chair of the search committee, or to any of the four faculty members of the committee (Babette Boliek, Bob Cochran, Rick Cupp, or Derek Muller).
Although I am fully aware of the very real challenges that this and all law schools face, I remain as full of hope for the future for all of us as I was when I arrived. I have been so inspired by the deans and others of you that I have come to know and respect. As a group and individually, you have the talents, vision, and capacity to lead legal education into a new but very bright future.
I thank you for your work. Above all, I commend you for being willing to articulate and model for the nation and the world the value of a legal education and the importance of leaders trained in the law to bring these skills and understandings to the public square. Throughout history lawyers and judges have been the spokespersons for the importance of civil discourse, equal justice under the law, and ordered liberty. Never have those values been more important. You are the keepers of this tradition for a new generation. Godspeed!
Yours Very Truly,
Deanell Reece Tacha
Duane & Kelly Roberts Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law