As I write my final Dean’s Message to you, I do so knowing that in August, the law school will safely be in the very well-qualified hands of my successor, William Hubbard. After six years as an associate dean and nine years as dean, I look forward to the transition back to the life of a full-time professor and am reminded that we are never too old to enjoy the excitement of new or renewed expectations.
The School of Law has been a major part of my life for almost 40 years. During that time, I've had the opportunity to wear many hats—but it was as dean that I truly came to appreciate how much I love my alma mater. I have looked on proudly at the achievements of our school, our alumni, our students, and our faculty. I have shared in their disappointment as well. Through it all, I have had the good fortune to be a part of an institution that has made astounding strides forward and has transformed itself as the world, the legal profession, and legal education have also been transformed.
I have said several times in recent months that every new dean takes the job with the expectation that he or she will leave the school better and stronger, and every departing dean leaves with the hope that his or her successor will do the same. I have every confidence that Dean Hubbard will do just that. He has the leadership skills and the vision to guide us into the future. He also has the benefit of the invaluable input that many of you provided in our recent and ongoing strategic planning process. We thank you for your time and thoughtful contributions, and in this issue, you will see an update on some of the findings that will be factored into a formal and dynamic strategic plan.
One thing the strategic discussions did not contemplate was the impact of a pandemic. The sudden arrival of COVID-19 presented one of the biggest challenges this institution has ever faced. The decision over Spring Break to end in-class instruction required quick action to make it through the spring semester, and I’m so proud of how our school responded. In this issue, we look at that response, and at how the law school community came together to get us through the early months of that crisis. Of course, we all know it’s far from over, as evidenced by this digital version of the fine print*. The effects of this pandemic will surely be felt for a long time, but rest assured, we will make it through, continuing to provide the highest level of legal education.
One of the biggest changes I have witnessed during my four decades at South Carolina is the growth of women lawyers in our state, including female faculty members and students. Today, the number of women professors and students at South Carolina Law is almost equal to the number of men and, as I write this in mid-July, we are on track to have the first majority female entering class in the history of the School of Law this fall. But this change has not come easily. To wit, 1918 was the first year that a female was admitted to the bar—and also, coincidentally, the year the Claudia Smith Sullivan became the first female to graduate from this school. And yet, when former Chief Justice Jean Toal graduated in 1968--a full 50 years later--the number of women students in any given class was still in the single digits. And yet, however small in number, the impact those lawyers have had on our state and our nation has been immeasurable. We are proud to profile five of these alumnae, highlighting not only their individual stories, but also how even across the years, they have helped each other and paved the way for future generations.
The model they have shown us of reaching out to help their sisters should inspire all of us to do the same. By helping each other through the changes we are experiencing today, we will make it through these unusual times together and with strength.
I will be back in the classroom in August 2021. Until then, I leave the dean’s office with a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you who helped to ensure that our School of Law continues to be better each and every day.
Forever to thee,