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Stanford Report, October 22, 2003

Kathleen Sullivanto step down as dean of Law School

BY ANN DETHLEFSEN

Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen M. Sullivan announced today that she will conclude her tenure as dean as of September 1, 2004.

President John Hennessy said he accepted Sullivan's decision to step down as dean "with reluctance," but was very pleased she has agreed to serve as the inaugural director of a new Stanford center on constitutional law after a yearlong sabbatical.


Professor Kathleen Sullivan. Photo: L.A. Cicero

"Kathleen Sullivan has been one of the preeminent deans in U.S. legal education," Hennessy said. "She has articulated a strong vision for the Law School and has led the school unerringly toward that vision. There is a new sense of vitality and excitement at the Law School that will be one of her greatest legacies to the school. On a broader scale, she has made thoughtful and insightful contributions to the university at large, and she has Stanford's deep gratitude for the tremendous job she has done."

A celebrated constitutional law scholar, Sullivan came to Stanford in 1993 from the Harvard Law School faculty and became the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law in 1996. She was appointed Dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law in 1999.

Sullivan's tenure as dean has been marked by increased national visibility and prominence for the school and numerous accomplishments, including the recruitment of seven rising stars to the faculty and retention of an array of nationally known tenured scholars; the creation of new centers on Internet and society, e-commerce, and law and bioscience; the expansion of clinical programs and creation of a new clinical faculty track; the establishment of a new legal services office in East Palo Alto at which law students represent clients in need; and the renovation of the school's 30-year-old campus, bringing multimedia capacity and wireless connectivity to its classrooms and a spacious, light-filled reading room to its library. She also proved to be an extremely successful fundraiser in support of the school's mission despite the economic downturn in recent years.

"I have loved this job and have loved working with our faculty, alumni, students, staff and friends to take the school to new levels of energy, excitement and excellence," Sullivan said in a letter to the Law School community announcing her decision. "Our faculty is one of the most brilliant and productive in the nation. Our students are among the very brightest from the widest diversity of backgrounds, talents and ambitions. And the school is in fabulous shape, both physically and financially."

Sullivan to direct new Stanford constitutional law center

Hennessy said that Sullivan was a natural choice to lead the new center and her expertise in the area of constitutional law would help build on Stanford's historical strength in this area of scholarship.

"Prior to becoming dean, Kathleen contributed enormously to public debate on the most pressing constitutional controversies of our time," he said. "I have therefore asked her to lead the new center on constitutional law when she returns to the faculty. I know that Stanford's traditional pinnacle of excellence in constitutional law will shine much brighter with her future contributions to teaching and research."

Former Stanford President Gerhard Casper, who appointed Sullivan dean, said there could be no better choice for leading the new center and that it was particularly fitting given Sullivan's close collegial relationship with their fellow scholar of constitutional law, Gerald Gunther, who died in 2002 after four decades on the Stanford faculty.

"Indeed, the idea for this center was conceived out of a desire to provide a fitting memorial to Gerry Gunther -- a giant in the field, Kathleen's casebook co-author and one of my closest friends and colleagues," Casper said. "At this point in our nation's history, the discussion of constitutional rights and the limits of power is of momentous consequence. With the founding of this center and Kathleen at its helm, Stanford will be in the vanguard of intellectual exploration of these issues."

"I am delighted and honored that President Hennessy has asked me to direct a new center for constitutional law at Stanford, and I am eager to begin that work after my deanship concludes," Sullivan wrote. "I am especially pleased that President Hennessy intends the center to honor the work of my late friend and colleague Gerald Gunther, a towering figure in the life of the school for more than four decades."

Duane C. Quaini '70, Chairman of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, LLP, and chair of the Stanford Law School Board of Visitors, said Sullivan had been an exemplary dean and served alumni particularly well.

"She has reached out to alumni and engaged them with her energy and enthusiasm about the school, and they have responded generously by becoming more involved and offering their support," Quaini said. "In four years as dean, she has made a tremendous impact on the school, and the school will reap the benefits of her vision and tenacity for many years to come."

Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree from Cornell, as well as one from Oxford University, where she was a Marshall Scholar. She also holds a doctorate in jurisprudence from Harvard University. Following graduation from law school, she served as a clerk to Judge James L. Oakes on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and worked as a constitutional litigator in Cambridge before joining the Harvard Law faculty in 1984.

Sullivan co-authored the 14th edition of the casebook Constitutional Law as well as the casebook First Amendment Law with Professor Gunther. She also co-wrote New Federalist Papers: Essays in Defense of the Constitution, with Alan Brinkley and Nelson W. Polsby.

Sullivan is frequently cited as one of the country's most influential lawyers and businesswomen. She has litigated numerous constitutional cases in the federal courts and served on the California Governor's Commission on Hate Groups and the National Commission on Federal Election Reform (co-chaired by Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter). An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, she also has been recognized for her skill in the classroom, having won teaching awards at both Stanford and Harvard law schools.

A search committee appointed by President Hennessy is being formed to name a successor to Sullivan. The selection process is expected to take several months.