Law Dean Rodney Smolla Named President of Furman University

Lexington, VA Monday, December 14, 2009


Rodney A. Smolla

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Rodney A. Smolla, dean and Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, has been named president of Furman University in Greenville, S.C.  Smolla will be introduced at a news conference on Tuesday and will assume his new position on July 1, 2010.

Washington and Lee University President Kenneth P. Ruscio said Smolla will remain in the dean's position through the current academic year. A national search will be conducted to name his replacement.

"On both a personal and a professional level, I am very sorry to be losing Dean Smolla. But it is not the least surprising that Furman would have chosen him as its president, and I know that he will be an outstanding leader of that very fine institution," said Ruscio.

"During his time here at Washington and Lee, Dean Smolla has worked with faculty, students and alumni to help us rethink legal education and has positioned Washington and Lee at the center of reform efforts nationally," said Ruscio. "We remain fully committed to these efforts, and I am confident that our long-standing reputation for excellence and innovation will enable us to attract excellent candidates."

The redesign of the third year, heralded by many as the boldest move to date in the growing legal education reform movement, engages students in a year-long course of study marked by practice-based simulations, real-client experiences, and explorations into legal ethics and professionalism, all designed to prepare them for the transition from law students to legal practitioners. This is the most visible of the several important curriculum reforms accomplished under Smolla's leadership since he arrived in 2007.

"Serving as the dean of the Washington and Lee School of Law has been a great honor and privilege," Smolla said.  "I am proud of the faculty, students, staff, and alumni, for their commitment to excellence, and their courage in forging a new direction of legal education in the United States.  Above all, I will miss the many friends I have made here."

Smolla graduated from Yale University in 1975 and the Duke University School of Law in 1978. He then served as law clerk to Judge Charles Clark on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. After practicing law in Chicago at Mayer, Brown, and Platt, he taught at several law schools before joining the William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, where he was Director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law from 1988 to 1996. Smolla joined the University of Richmond Law School in 1998 and was named Dean there in 2003.

Nationally recognized as a scholar, teacher, advocate, and writer, Smolla's wide-ranging scholarship includes four legal treatises, a casebook on the First Amendment, a coauthored casebook on constitutional law, and scores of articles in the nation's top law reviews. He also writes widely for general audiences, including popular books such as Deliberate Intent and Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt. His commentary appears frequently in national print and electronic media. Recently, he was elected to the Board of Governors of the Virginia Bar Association and served as the moderator of the first debate between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell for the closely watched Virginia governor's race.

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