Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School since 2009, welcomed students back from the holidays with a New Year’s announcement January 3 that she plans to step down in a few months.
Minow will resign as Harvard Law’s 12th dean at the end of the academic year, and University President Drew Faust said a search for her replacement will begin “soon,” according to an article in the Harvard Crimson.
In announcing her intention to step down, Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu dean and professor of law, noted that Harvard Law recently surpassed its capital campaign goal of $305 million, part of the university-wide Harvard Campaign that kicked off publicly in 2013, seeking to raise $6.5 billion. Harvard Law’s portion of the wider campaign, titled the “Campaign for the Third Century,” launched publicly in October 2015 and focused on clinical education and financial aid for students; it follows the law school’s capital campaign that concluded in 2008 and raised $476 million.
Minow, who leaves in the midst of the school’s bicentennial celebration, noted in her resignation announcement that she originally intended only to serve as dean for five years.
GROWING UP IN THE LAW
Minow’s deanship began eight years ago in the wake of the financial crisis that sparked the Great Recession, but her career at Harvard Law began many years earlier, in 1981, when she joined the faculty as an assistant professor. According to the Crimson, “During her time as dean she served as the chair of the Dean’s Steering Committee of the Association of American Schools, and as the vice chair of the Legal Services Corporation, and continued to teach courses.”
“I have had the remarkable fortune to ‘grow up’ in the law over the past 36 years since joining the School as an assistant professor in 1981,” Minow wrote in a letter to the Harvard Law community, “and yet not until I became dean did I come fully to understand the scope, depth, and constant creativity of this wondrous place. Committed to rigorous analysis, open discussion, building knowledge, and advancing justice, Harvard Law School supports phenomenal students en route to lives of leadership across private and public institutions of law, business, government, nonprofits and NGOs, and the arts.
“Coming to the deanship at a time of significant challenge and change in the global economy, the legal profession, and the world, I have been privileged to work with so many of you to move forward on all fronts nonetheless — transforming our campus, launching new clinics and expanding our public service commitments, developing new research programs, and recruiting and supporting incredibly strong faculty, staff, and students who are more diverse on many dimensions than in any time in our history.”
Minow will return to teaching in July, she announced, “and to more robust engagement with the significant issues of the day.” Presumably that will include race, an issue that has figured prominently in her tenure as dean. In response to protests by student groups calling for the law school to be made more welcoming to minorities, Minow in December 2015 ordered the removal of the school’s controversial seal and announced curriculum reforms and the establishment of a critical race theory program.
‘A GENERATIVE MIND AND A GENEROUS HEART’
President Faust cited Minow’s support for new clinics and programs in such areas as criminal law and policy, immigration, and the needs of military veterans, and the expansion of business-related offerings with a focus on experiential learning, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. She also noted Minow’s embrace of new opportunities presented by technology and online platforms, including digitization of and access to the Harvard Law Library’s collection.
“Throughout her long and distinguished career, and especially during the past eight years as Dean, Martha Minow has devoted herself to making Harvard Law School stronger and better, more inclusive and more intently focused on the quest for fairness, equality, opportunity, and respect for the rule of law,” Faust said in a written statement. “She has embraced her life’s work with a generative mind and a generous heart, personifying the power of legal education, scholarship, and practice to bend the arc toward justice. She has affirmed Harvard Law School as an institution and a community firm in its dedication to free inquiry and reasoned debate, open to people remarkably diverse in their backgrounds and points of view but joined in recognizing the centrality of law to free and just societies.
“Her impact reaches across the University as a whole, through an animating curiosity and a powerful intellect that point all of us toward new connections and possibilities.”
Faust said in searching for Minow’s successor, she will welcome advice from across the Harvard Law community.