June 26, 2008

University of Maryland School of Law Dean Gives One-Year Notice

By Steve Lash

University of Maryland School of Law Dean Karen H. Rothenberg, the school's first female dean in its 185-year history, said Wednesday that she will step down on June 30, 2009, after nearly a decade in the post.

Rothenberg, 55, said she gave the year's notice to allow the school to pick a successor and to ensure a smooth transition. Beginning in July 2009, Rothenberg said, she will take a one-year sabbatical before returning to the school's faculty, on which she has served since 1983.

The nationally recognized scholar in heath care law served as interim dean after former Dean Donald G. Gifford resigned abruptly in July 1999. Rothenberg was named dean in April 2000 by David J. Ramsay, president of the University of Maryland's downtown professional school campus.

Ramsay will coordinate the search for Rothenberg's successor, which she said "will begin in earnest" at the beginning of the school year.

A yet-to-be-named law-school faculty member will chair the search committee, Rothenberg wrote in an e-mail sent to dozens of lawyers, judges and other colleagues after the announcement. She encouraged them to offer suggestions on the search process, including the names of potential dean candidates, committee members and evaluation criteria.

Rothenberg, noting 2009 will mark her 10th year as dean, said a decade is "just a good milestone" on which to step down. She added that she wants to leave the deanship in the same way "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Seinfeld" left network television -- with high ratings.

"You leave when you are at a place ... when [the administrators, faculty and students] are thriving," Rothenberg said.

She added that her year on sabbatical will give her "time to think and reflect," as well as a chance to get reacquainted with her family, whom she said she has neglected during the "24-7 existence" of being a law school dean.

Rothenberg said she has no plans to leave the school nor relax during her final 12 months as dean.

"I will not be a lame duck in this last year," she said, adding that the school must continue to raise money for scholarships and capital projects.

Last November, the school went public with its "Making an Impact Campaign," which seeks to raise $50 million to support program and faculty development, student scholarships and other school enhancements. The campaign is about 54 percent of the way to its goal, school officials said Wednesday.

In general, Rothenberg said she expected to dislike fundraising when she became dean. But she said she has come to enjoy it.

"I didn't get into academics to be a fundraiser," she said "[But] it's an opportunity to meet great people ... willing to put their money where their mouth is."

Rothenberg, however, said she will not miss the long commute between her Baltimore office and Bethesda home after late-night events that require the dean's attendance; nor will she long for the all-consuming nature of the job she loves.

"When I'm in the shower, I still think about the job," she said. "That's exhausting."

Years of growth

Ramsay, in a statement, praised Rothenberg for helping build what he called the law school's "national reputation for excellence." He added that "the entire campus has benefited from her leadership, wisdom and vision."

Under her tenure, the law school opened its new, state-of-the- art facility in 2002. The law school's endowment grew from $29 million in 1999 to $49 million today, the school said in announcing her decision to step down.

The school credited her with having created centers and programs in intellectual-property, business and international law. Rothenberg also increased resources for faculty research and started a program for distinguished visitors, the school stated.

In addition, she built partnerships with schools, government organizations and the judiciary in South Africa, Chile, England, Germany, Australia, China and Costa Rica with study-abroad and faculty-exchange programs. Rothenberg also expanded the school's programs for providing free legal aid to organizations in Baltimore and nearby cities and increased financial scholarship money.

William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, lauded Rothenberg for improving the quality of the school.

"By sheer force of personality -- her vision, enthusiasm and relentless optimism -- Karen has been able to recruit some of the legal academy's best young minds to the faculty and to draw together an ever-widening circle of friends and supporters for the School of Law," Kirwan said in a statement.

In her e-mail to colleagues following the announcement, Rothenberg said she is "filled with many emotions" in stepping down from the deanship.

"I feel some sadness that I won't be working as closely with all of you who have come to mean so much to me," she wrote. "And I feel some relief that, after a very hectic decade, I will have more time to devote to my research, teaching and personal goals. But the overwhelming emotions I feel today are gratitude and pride -- gratitude to all of you for your support, creativity, hard work and dedication to the institution, and pride in all we have accomplished together."

Originally published by Steve Lash.

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