May 3, 1999
Volume 51, No. 30
Hunter signs up for another term as law school dean bolstered by new review process future plans
Ten years at the law school's helm have flown by for Dean Howard "Woody" Hunter. "Suddenly, I'm the senior dean," he said, laughing, alluding to recent announcements of senior executive retirements and new hires. "It's been a good group to work with," Hunter said of his fellow deans. "That's been one of the greatest pleasures of this job."
Hunter is staying put. In early April he accepted reappointment by Provost Rebecca Chopp for a third term. A new review process of his tenure consisted of an internal committee of law school faculty Rich Freer, Jeff Pennell, Jim Hughes, Bill Buzbee and Anita Mann and, externally, the deans of Duke, New York University and the University of Southern California law schools. The deans spent several days on campus and looked hard at the inner workings of the law school, said Chopp.
In addition to the internal and external review process of the law school, faculty and senior staff were invited to write confidential letters of review on the dean, she explained. "By reviewing the school as well as its leadership, the president and I have a good idea of the present state of the school and a sense of where it should head in the future," Chopp noted. "From all the letters, surveys and reports of the reviewers, a general consensus emerged about the future direction of the school. The president and I are excited about Woody's continued leadership for the next stage of Emory's law school."
Hunter plans to focus on filling several important faculty lines in the near future, he said. "We're seeking to expand the size of the faculty, to build strength in particular areas," he explained. "We want to hire proven teachers and scholars at mid-career and senior levels and some entry level professors too."
Other priorities include curriculum reorganization and dramatically increasing the size of the law school's endowment. At $20 million, "it's a fraction of the endowment base of other [law] schools," Hunter said. The School of Law has already undertaken a "quiet" capital campaign. "We need to continue to build on the base we've established with annual fund, corporate and individual donors," he added.
Hunter said he'd also like to build a closer relationship to the health sciences. Health policy and environmental issues are becoming a fast-growing segment of the legal profession, he said, and programs such as those the school already has in place to bridge the professions-- theology and business, among them--will serve students in good stead. But these connections will be driven by the curiosity and commitment of professors and students. "Intellectual connections that exist are driven by the research and teaching missions of the various units," he said, not by administrative design.
As for the last 10 years, Hunter said he's proudest of the faculty appointments made at the law school. "We had a fine group of faculty already, and we built on that," he said. At the same time he seeks to "grow" the faculty, the school's student body has been purposefully reduced. "We've managed to maintain high quality students in a time of extreme competition for good students," Hunter noted. "Emory is consistently among the most culturally, racially and ethnically diverse private schools in the Southeast."
Other noteworthy accomplishments during Hunter's tenure include the MacMillan Law Library and the technological explosion that his school--and others here on campus--have undergone in the past several years. "You're always struggling to keep up [with technology], but the transformation is just amazing," he noted. "The first year [students] have far more laptops than the present third years."
Through the law library, students have full access to a host of legal journals--now mostly online--and all have personal Internet connections through the school's server. School administrators are in the process of retrofitting some classrooms in Gambrell Hall, although the building's configurations make it a difficult--and expensive--proposition, Hunter said.
Despite his full-time job as dean, Hunter still finds time to teach, although he did take much of this year off--sort of. "I was convinced by others that I could take a semester off," he said. Suitably satisfied that there were enough colleagues to cover his teaching duties, Hunter kept only his first-year mentoring class of 28 students and taught the "Media and Law" seminar for the college's Journalism Program this year.
He thinks he'll be back to his full nine-hour teaching load soon. "I missed it," he said.