Tulane University is poised to hire Michael Fitts, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School, as their next President. The decision could come as early as today (Feb. 4), according to a report in The Advocate.
Fitts would succeed Scott Cowen, who has served as Tulane’s President since 1998.
The dean of Penn Law since 2000, Fitts is known for his fund-raising prowess, increasing the school’s endowment by over 250% and graduating over 3500 lawyers. With an enrollment of over 750 students, Penn Law is ranked #7 by U.S. News and World Report and known for interdisciplinary education and community service work.
Before his elevation to Dean, Fitts served as a Penn Law professor for 15 years, where he taught Administrative Law, Election Law, Legislative Process, and Regulated Industries. Before that, he worked in the Department of Justice from 1981-1985 in the Office of Legal Counsel, which acts as outside Counsel to the President, White House, and Cabinet.
Fitts earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his J.D. from Yale. Upon graduation, he spent two years as a law clerk for A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., a U.S. Judge for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a recent interview with Tipping the Scales, Fitts was bullish on the future of law schools: “For students coming to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, I don’t think there has been a more exciting moment to go to law school. What we teach here is as important as it has ever been and the opportunities it will offer our students is really exceptional. That’s because a legal education today broadly conceived is first-rate preparation for leadership decision-making in this economic environment.”
Despite a soft hiring market, Fitts is equally optimistic about the career prospects for students: “We have looked at our graduates over the years and one of our most successful classes at Penn Law was the class that graduated in 1983. If you go back and look at what was happening, you’ll find that the American economy stagnated from about 1972 through 1983. It was a tough period. Those students graduated into one of the worst markets imaginable. But there were two things we know about that class: first, they knew they had to be scrappy. They had to look hard in terms of their careers. And secondly, 1983 was the beginning of major changes in the American economy. For them, it turned out to be a perfect time because it was so challenging. That class includes the head of MTV, the CEO of Bed, Bath & Beyond. I can just go down the list and you find success after success.”
Fitts’ selection would conclude an eighth-month search for a new President. According to The Advocate, Tulane’s board would need to approve Fitts’ hiring. Tax forms reveal that outgoing President Cowen earned $940,000 in 2011 as part of his compensation package.