University of Texas Law School Selects New Dean

Dean Ward Farnsworth of the University of Texas School of Law.
Dean Ward Farnsworth of the University of Texas School of Law.

Ward Farnsworth, an associate dean at Boston University School of Law, will take over as dean of the University of Texas School of Law on June 1.

"He has really the whole package," said University of Texas President Bill Powers, praising Farnsworth's experience as an administrator, scholar and teacher.

"He's young and very energetic, and I was extremely impressed with his vision for higher education and the law school, and every constituent group — students, alumni, faculty — were very enthusiastic about him," Powers said.

Farnsworth, who clerked for Richard Posner on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, called UT the "finest truly public law school in the country."

"I'm coming in as a newcomer to a community, so my first order of business is learning from the faculty, the alumni and the rest of the community down there about their views and abilities, and how we can use them to advance the mission of the school," said Farnsworth, who graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1994.

Powers asked former dean Larry Sager, who is still a professor at the law school, to step down last December. Sager's sudden resignation came after significant unrest among the faculty over the law school's compensation practices, complaints about sexual discrimination and questions about the use of funds from the private law school foundation. But Sager also set fundraising records as dean — during his five-year tenure, he gathered just less than $80 million in donations — and lured a series of highly regarded professors to the school. 

In an email, Sager called Farnsworth a "fine choice" for the position. "He is smart, firm, and energetic, and he has done a great job already of learning about our state and our school," he wrote.

Farnsworth said the history of conflict among the law school's faculty didn't trouble him, noting that the interim dean, Stefanie Lindquist, had already "made a lot of headway" in addressing their concerns. He also said that he believed the faculty is "in general agreement on all the things that matter most."

"They have a strong shared sense of mission and I think what they all most desire are just stronger more transparent procedures for governance," he said.

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