Wendell Pritchett, a recently appointed Presidential Term Professor, will step in for outgoing Law School Dean Michael Fitts as the interim Penn Law Dean.
Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price announced on Tuesday that Pritchett, currently the chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden, will succeed Fitts, who will become president of Tulane University on July 1, as interim dean for the upcoming 2014-15 academic year.
The search for Fitts’ permanent successor will begin later this spring and continue into the next academic year.
“We were looking for somebody with extensive experience in administration and as an academic leader and who would know the law faculty and would continue Dean Fitts’ trajectory for the year we conduct the search,” Gutmann said in an interview. “We also wanted someone who didn’t want to be a candidate for the deanship.”
As interim dean, Pritchett will not be considered for the dean position.
“I am grateful for Pritchett’s willingness to serve as interim dean and very pleased with the trajectory of Penn Law, which will without a doubt continue under Dr. Pritchett’s interim leadership,” Gutmann said.
Pritchett, who served as the associate dean for academic affairs at Penn Law from 2006- 2007, was also a member of the faculty from 2001-2009. He received his Ph.D. in history from Penn in 1997 and his J.D. from Yale University in 1991. His recent appointment as a Presidential Term Professor makes him the first professor of this designation to be appointed to a position at Penn Law.
Law professor Ted Ruger shared his excitement on Pritchett’s return to Penn. “I think the world of Wendell, and I think he’s a tremendous choice as interim dean,” Ruger said. “He brings the added experience of running a major university in the Philadelphia area and that will play a major role in keeping the campus running."
Pritchett joined Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration in 2008 as the deputy chief of staff and director of policy. “Wendell’s expertise in urban policy and education and familiarity with the dynamics of government at the local, regional and national levels make him the ideal interim leader of Penn Law,” Gutmann said in a statement.
Ruger recalled the great strides the law school had taken under the leadership of Michael Fitts and was confident that Pritchett would sustain that momentum. “We’ve done very well at the Law School under Mike Fitts, recruiting top scholars from other schools and developing innovative programs for students,” he said.
“Wendell is ideal in that he will continue to build on that and bring strength to that while still bringing a different perspective given his role heading Rutgers-Camden. So he’s an ideal person to build on the tremendous success that Mike Fitts has brought to the law school.” Ruger said.
Law professor Sarah Gordon, who worked with Pritchett during his time at Penn, shared similar sentiments. “We have a really strong law school right now and Wendell was part of making it strong so staying on that track is exactly what he’ll understand,” she said.
The University recently concluded a busy year of four dean searches for the Nursing School, Graduate School, the Wharton School and the School of Social Policy & Practice. In addition, a new athletic director was recently chosen. The search committee for the new Law School dean will mark the fifth dean search in less than a year.
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