Personal Side of a Deanship
Dean University of Georgia School of Law
I became a Dean at Ole Miss in 1990 the workshop for new Deans was held in
late January or early February in connection with the ABA’s mid-year
meeting. The baby Deans met for a two-day program before the regular Deans’
Workshop. My mentor from my 13 years on the South Carolina faculty, Dean John
Montgomery, encouraged me to go and said I would get a lot out of it. Even
though I already had been deaning for 6 or 7 months and weathered a couple of
storms, my the new Deans’ workshop in Seattle was a valuable
program for me, and I am sure that the other new Deans who started with me
felt the same way.
of the things I learned 10 years ago, that new Deans now learn at the ABA’s
Velvet Boot Camp, is that the individuals who are selected for these demanding
positions after going through those exhaustive searches and interviews are a
great group of men and women. The Deans I know are proof positive that you can
be a good teacher, a productive scholar, an excellent law school citizen and a
nice person -- all at the same time! Moreover, I have, and have had, former
Deans as colleagues, and without exception they are excellent colleagues.
the last ten years I have enjoyed meeting and getting to know my fellow deans,
and I look forward to seeing them at events like the AALS Recruitment
and the AALS Annual Meeting as well as at the ABA’s Deans’ Workshop at the
midyear meeting. What else has kept me at it for 10 years? Why have I taken on
the challenge of leading a law school when I could be holding down the best
job in higher education; being a tenured law professor.
If you take this job because you are receiving a nice raise over your old
academic year salary plus a summer teaching or research stipend, then you are
making a big mistake. I am well compensated but I earn every penny of it and
there are plenty of times I say to myself, or to my wife, it is not enough!
you do it because you want to be in charge and tell people what to do? I hope
not. Most of the time the buck stops in your office and you will be expected
to make all kinds of decisions, but you should never forget that leading a law
faculty is often described as trying to herd or juggle cats. Your alumni, your
students, the legislature, and the general public will assume that you have
real authority and real power. On the other hand, if you are lucky your
colleagues on the faculty might regard you at best as being first among
you take this job because it will give you control over your time? You have to
be kidding! A regular, tenured law professor is the master of his or her
time, deadlines and schedule. Those days of controlling your time are long
gone once you become the Dean. Your time is consumed by meetings at school,
meetings across campus, travel to see alumni, travel to do development work,
trying to prepare to teach a class, giving Rotary talks, speaking to bar
groups, and doing a CLE once in a while.
Deans should learn to “just say no!”
why have I been deaning for over 10 years?
I do in fact enjoy most aspects of the job including the many
challenges, the fact that there is nothing routine about the work, and the
many public aspects of the position such as receptions, bar meetings, tailgate
parties, law review banquets, and bar luncheons. I enjoy students. We would
not have these wonderful jobs in law teaching without them. I like faculty and
still think of myself as a law professor first. It is fun to do alumni
relations and development work, and I would love to have more time on the road
for friend raising and fund raising. Many of us who go into deaning are
gregarious and outgoing people. As an extrovert I have had the pleasure during
my three deanships of getting to know and working with many interesting
people. It is quite entertaining to sit at an alumni luncheon with a couple of
recent graduates, some from the early 70s, and a senior attorney who finished
school in the late 1940s and listen to them talk about the law school, the
practice of law and their many experiences.
order to tell you more about the personal side of my deanships, you need to
know some family history. First, I am a faculty brat. My late father taught
art and design at the University of Illinois for 40 years. He was Department
Head for 20 of those years, and the department of art and design was and is
big. I remember going to art department picnics as a child, having department
receptions and parties at our house with my Mom keeping me out of the living
and dining rooms for a week before the party, and having Mom and Dad going out
in the evening to department and university functions. Dad served on all sorts
of university committees, and Mom was active with several university
organizations. They loved the University of Illinois and they enjoyed being
active and involved in the life of that campus. My parents remained in
Champaign after Dad retired in 1979 and both kept going to art department and
the university functions until their deaths. They have had a huge impact on my
career and on my approach to being a faculty member, a university citizen, and
a Dean. They are still my role models!
notwithstanding my midwestern roots, I have spent all but one of my 23 years
of law teaching in the Southeast. After practicing law in Providence, Rhode
Island for two years I moved to Columbia, South Carolina in the summer of
1977. I think Elvis died the day my U-Haul truck crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.
I had to adjust to Columbia’s heat and humidity and work hard to become a
decent law teacher, but it did not take me too long to be get hooked
on BB’Q, beach music, the low country, beautiful springs, and mild winters.
The apple does not fall far from the tree so I knew after less than a
semester that I wanted to stay in teaching. Moreover, my wife, Jenny
Coleman made transplanting this Yankee to the Deep South much easier (from
passive). We married in 1980. Jenny is a South Carolinian, and she has
a decorative ceramic tile on our kitchen wall which that states “American by Birth, Southerner by the
Grace of God.” Much to the
distress of her Mother, she kept her maiden name but in some of the places we
have traveled during my deanships alumni think she has a double first name
like Betty Jo or Mary Lou. She would be introduced as, this is the
Dean’s wife, Jenny Coleman Shipley. Jenny deserves some kind of award or
prize because she has been willing to go through three moves with me in the
last 10 years! In fact, we spent a year apart on our last move from Kentucky
to Georgia so our daughter could finish high school in Lexington and not have
spend her senior year in a completely new environment. That was a tough year
for all of us.
is gets into a third general point regarding my history and the
personal side of my deaning. This is my third deanship. You might say fourth
if you count my year as an Associate Dean at South Carolina even though
holding that kind of job (a mouse in training to be a rat) does not really
prepare you for all the stuff you do as the Dean Dean. In any event, I was
Associate Dean at South Carolina from 1989 to 1990, Dean at Ole Miss from 1990
to 1993, Dean at Kentucky from 1993 to 1998, and I have been at UGA since July
1, 1998. Tom Read and several other people have held more deanships than I,
but my hunch is that I am the only person to hold that three deanships at
different schools within the same athletic conference; the SEC. It is a good
thing I like college football. Of course, it would have been difficult to grow
up in a college town like Champaign Urbana and not be a college football and
does all of this relate to the personal side of my deanships? I am fortunate
that my wife has as much enthusiasm for the deaning business as I do.
She is wonderful with alumni, she is super with students, she can work
a crowd at a reception, she gets to know people, she likes to entertain, she does
gives excellent dinner parties, and she loves college football. In many
ways, my wife is much like the girl who married dear old Dad; my Mother.
Since Jenny arrived in Athens in the summer of 1999 we have had several
groups of students to our house for dinner, we have had lots of faculty over,
and we have entertained alumni at our home. My in-laws have made several
wife has done quite a few alumni/development trips with me. For instance, in
the fall of 1999 we drove four hours on a Thursday morning for a luncheon in
Statesboro, then on to a reception and dinner that evening in Savannah; we
spent the night down the road in Brunswick, did a Friday breakfast there,
drove to Jacksonville, Florida for UGA’s annual moot court competition with
the Florida Gators as well as a luncheon with the judges and the sponsoring
firms. The luncheon was followed by a general Jacksonville area alumni
reception and dinner with a smaller group of alumni, and then on Saturday we
went to the annual Georgia vs. Florida football game with some major donors.
We were exhausted when we made the six-hour drive from Jacksonville back to
Athens on Sunday, but we enjoyed lots of time together, we stayed in a very
nice hotel in Jacksonville, and we had a chance to unwind and be ourselves,
and when we do this trip again we will build in time to play golf.
Another example is the Georgia Bar’s annual meeting. In the summer of
2000 the convention was in Savannah and Jenny was with me for a reception,
several dinners with alumni, and two big alumni gatherings. We went over to
Hilton Head after the last cocktail party to get some sun, walk on the beach,
and lose some golf balls. It is fair to say that job has some good perks.
try to balance out the deaning work and the public aspects of the position,
with time to ourselves and having some fun. It is not always easy.
I have come to admire the endurance and resilience of political
candidates after spending three or four days in a row visiting alumni, going
to receptions, eating rich food, and not getting enough sleep. I always travel
with my running gear so I can get in a workout every day even if it is just
fifteen laps around the Holiday Inn parking lot at 6:00 in the morning. That
30 minutes of pavement pounding clears my head and keeps me even tempered.
Still, there are times when I wonder whether we can grip and grin any longer,
and we do look forward to weekends when there is nothing going on.
Also, there are times we wish we could be anonymous. We lived in
Oxford, Mississippi, a wonderful college town of 10,000, when I was Dean at
Ole Miss, and it seemed like everyone knew that I drove a 1981 Ford Fairmont
station wagon. If I went to Wal-Mart on a Saturday unshaven and in blue jeans
and a t-shirt, I would invariably run into people who would say “hey Dean,
how are you.” You could not go out to dinner without seeing students and
alumni. It was easier to escape in Lexington, Kentucky with a population of
250,000, but Athens, Georgia is more like Oxford. We need to be on good
behavior all the time, but we like the familiarity, the friendliness, getting
to know lots of people on campus and in the community and seeing my students
around the town.
toughest thing about deaning for me, and this has not become any easier with
experience, is needing to be a SOB once in a while and sometimes even more often
than that. I think of myself as good-natured, upbeat, positive, and cheerful. I
am a person who wants to be liked. There
are, however, lots of times a Dean has to say no, or to have a confrontation, or
to say I am the Dean and that is the final decision. Is this harder to do when
you are close to some of your colleagues? In my experience, no. I think it is
easier for me to candid and direct with those colleagues who know me the best.
conclusion, what has suffered the most during my ten years of being Dean is not
my marriage, my family, or my health, but my name. Everyone calls me Dean, and I
have started to refer to myself as the Dean, my wife as the Deaness and my
daughter as the Deanette. I do not know if I will ever be Dave Shipley again.
This essay was first presented as After Dinner Comments at the ABA’s June
2000 Seminar for New Law School Deans held at the Wake Forest’s Grayln