By Michael K. Young
For the past six years, writing this column has been one of the greatest pleasures of my job. It has been a challenge because the inches of this column and even the pages of this magazine have always been far too limited to permit me to describe the extraordinary developments that have occurred during the past months. At the same time, even in this limited space I have had the great privilege of giving you some sense of the great excitement we feel every day when we enter the building.
The remarkable expansion and improvements in the physical facilities are the most visible manifestations of our dramatic progress, but they are hardly the only ones. Indeed, the most significant changes to the Law School over the last several years are the less visible ones, changes that have occurred inside the classroom. Our student body continues to become even more competitive and highly qualified. The number of applications to this falls entering class topped 12,000, and, judged both quantitatively and qualitatively, our incoming students are among the most competitive in the nation.
But perhaps the most significant of these intangible changes involves our faculty, truly the heart and soul of our school. As our students know particularly well, the core activity of our Law School remains in the classroom, in the rich and immensely important pedagogical relationship between professor and student. The Law Schools mission is to create outstanding lawyers and leaders, and our faculty achieves that goal with stunning success. Our professors instruct, inspire, guide, cajole, and cheer their students during the arduous journey to inherit the lawyering craft. And during the past six years, we have welcomed an extraordinarily large and talented group of new scholars and educators into our community, eight in the last year alone. Add to this one of the most talented and dedicated staffs of any law school in the country and you have the recipe for perhaps the most dynamic, vibrant, innovative law school in the United States.
But all this makes this deans column the hardest by far I have ever had to write. For the past six years, I have had the extraordinary privilege of being a member of this remarkable community. During this time, I have come to respect and appreciate my faculty colleagues more than I can say. I have observed with admiration bordering on awe the stunning level of service the entire staff of the Law School provides to our students and faculties. The talents and accomplishments of our students, in and out of the classroom, leave me speechless. And then there are the alumni. I simply do not have words to describe my affection and admiration for our wonderfully successful and committed alumni. You have uniformly welcomed me into your lives and have joined us in the life of this great Law School and in the task of making it even better.
But the very success we have enjoyed together has brought justifiably favorable attention to the Law School, and, frankly speaking, probably unjustifiably warm attention to me. In large measure because of that attention, in April of this year, Suzan and I were offered the opportunity to lead the University of Utah, a university for which we have great affection and in a state that has personal meaning for both of us. We have accepted that invitation, and in August I will be leaving the Law School to assume the presidency of that university.
For the past six years, I have had the extraordinary privilege of being a member of this remarkable community.
You have uniformly welcomed me into your lives and have joined us in the life of this great Law School and in the task of making it even better.
This is not a position for which I would have even been considered had it not been for the extraordinary efforts of everyone here at the Law School. I may have come here with a few ideas, but it was the combined energy, vision, dedication, commitment, hard work, and accomplishments of all of you that brought us to where we are today. Last month I received a certain amount of credit for all that we did together, but I am always mindful that any recognition I receive, I receive on behalf of all of us.
Since the first day I arrived here, I have been struck not only by the exceptional accomplishments of the faculty and the commitment of the staff, but also by the impressively collegial atmosphere. I knew of the reputation of the faculty, a group of incredibly talented scholars whose work was well known in legal circles and beyond. Indeed, I had read articles and books by many of them already in my academic career. I also knew from my predecessors that I would inherit a highly skilled and professional staff that would be the envy of any dean. And, of course, I understood that I would be presiding over the education of some of the brightest, most motivated students in the country and, all the while, coming to know and value the hundreds of successful and dedicated GW Law alums around this nation.
Little did I know that all of the accolades that one could heap on the faculty, staff, and students were understatements! The reality has been moremuch, much morethan I could have possibly anticipated, and we have built on that extraordinary base and made progress on a variety of fronts, to be sure. Yes, the physical facility has been improved, but more importantly, the numerical credentials of our students have risen, we have added more terrific professors, and our academic programs are more rich and vibrant than they have ever been.
But the truth of the matter is that what I will remember and value most in the coming years is the enormously warm welcome with which you embraced Sue and me and the personal friendships we have developed over the years. We will miss the school, of course, and regret not being a part of the great future that undoubtedly awaits. But, most of all, we will miss the privilege of coming to work every day with the finest group of people, especially you, the alumni, with whom I have ever had the honor of associating.
I leave the school with the deepest appreciation for the privilege of working with all of you to make this great Law School even better. But I also leave the Law School in exceptionally good hands. Indeed, Sue presciently observed that it will probably be two or three years before my absence is even noticed, given how extraordinarily well everyone does their job.
But I do hope our absence, if not exactly noticed, will at least be remembered occasionally and with a certain amount of fondness. I know a day will never go by that we will not think of the Law School and of all of you.