The College of William & Mary Law School, the nation’s oldest legal educational institution, has appointed its first African American dean, the university announced on Monday.
A. Benjamin Spencer, law professor at the University of Virginia who is also known as a civil procedure and federal courts expert, will be the first Black dean of any school at William & Mary, which is located in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“William & Mary is thrilled to welcome Ben Spencer as our next dean of the law school,” said President Katherine A. Rowe in a statement. “Since the beginning of the search process we sought a leader who values all three aspects of the law: the academy, the bar and the bench. Ben brings that broad view of legal practice, together with a deep appreciation of the ethos of the citizen lawyer that has inspired the oldest law school in the country since its founding.”
Spencer, in turn complimented Rowe for having the foresight to choose an African American for the prestigious position.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s 2020 and there are still things that African Americans haven’t had the opportunity to do,” Spencer said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “But we have a leader in Katherine Rowe at William & Mary who is extremely visionary and she’s definitely the type of person you’d expect to make this type of move and facilitate the breaking of that barrier.”
The appointment follows a family tradition in the legal and educational fields, according to the Times-Dispatch. Spencer’s father, James R. Spencer, was appointed as a federal judge in 1986, the first African American in Virginia to do so. His grandfather, Adam S. Arnold, was the first Black professor at Notre Dame.
Spencer succeeds Davison M. Douglas, who will return to faculty duties after being in the dean position for 10 years. He officially joins the staff on July 1.
Photo Credit: University of Virginia
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