September 12, 2008

UA’s Toni Massaro to Quit As Law Dean, Return to Teaching


UA officials will begin a national search to replace outgoing law school Dean Toni Massaro, but finding a qualified candidate won't be easy, members of the legal community said Friday.

Massaro, who in 1999 became the first woman to lead the James E. Rogers College of Law, leaves a legacy of increased academic excellence and heightened fund-raising support that has transformed the school into an elite legal program, colleagues said.

Massaro, 55, told faculty, students and alumni on Thursday of her decision to step down and return to teaching next year. Colleagues said they were saddened by the news but relieved to learn that the regents professor would continue to work at the University of Arizona.

"She's set the bar so high that it's going to be difficult to find someone to meet it," said Jeff Simmons, a Phoenix attorney who is president of the law school's alumni association.

"She's genuine and she has so much passion for the college. I'm going to miss her as dean, but the silver lining in all this is the fact that she will be staying."

Holding a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University, Massaro received her law degree from William and Mary's Marshall-Wythe School of Law. She practiced law in Chicago before becoming a law professor, joining the UA faculty in 1989.

Massaro was unavailable on Friday, but in a letter to the UA legal community she said that she remains fully committed to the law school.

"Tucson is my home, and this college is my home," she wrote. "We have an enviable combination of academic excellence, collegiality and aesthetics that can't be found elsewhere in the country."

During Massaro's tenure, the law school has been recognized as one of the nation's top legal institutions and continues to improve, said James E. Rogers, the school's namesake.

The key to Massaro's success - and the UA's increased prestige - has been her ability to cultivate a top-notch legal faculty with a wide variety of expertise, said Rogers, who currently serves as chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education.

"Law schools are built upon the quality of the faculty and she has a way with faculty that is nearly unmatched," he said.

Most recently, Massaro oversaw a $21 million renovation of the law school, which was completed just before classes began this fall.

A nationally recognized expert in constitutional law, Massaro has been an asset to the entire state's legal community, said attorney Ed Novak, president of the State Bar of Arizona.

"When Toni speaks on constitutional issues, everyone listens," Novak said. "Toni always commands everyone's attention because she's so darn smart and knows the area so well."

Massaro will end her term as dean in July, according to a UA news release.

Provost Meredith Hay has appointed Eller College of Management Dean Paul Portney as chairmen of the committee tasked with finding Massaro's replacement.

* Contact reporter Aaron Mackey at 807-8012 or at [email protected] Get all the latest UA news by visiting /campuscorrespondent.

Originally published by AARON MACKEY, ARIZONA DAILY STAR.

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