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Farnsworth New Dean of University of Texas School of Law

LAW associate dean a “dedicated teacher, scholar, administrator”

Ward Farnsworth, University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Boston University School of Law

LAW associate dean Ward Farnsworth is the new School of Law dean at the University of Texas at Austin. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Today marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for Ward Farnsworth. Tomorrow, he will become the new dean of the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin, bringing to a close his 15-year career at BU’s School of Law, where he taught and served as the associate dean for academic affairs.

“It was a very hard decision,” says Farnsworth, a LAW professor and Nancy E. Barton Scholar. “I spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether the opportunity was valuable enough to be worth leaving the school that I have such good feelings for and this region too. But sometimes opportunity knocks when you don’t expect it, and off you go.”

Farnsworth joined the LAW faculty in 1997 and taught civil procedure, torts, contracts, and rhetoric. He has received many awards over the years, including the University-wide United Methodist Church Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award in 2009. An author and researcher, he has published in multiple legal journals, coauthored Torts: Cases and Questions, and written The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, and two online volumes on chess. Three years ago he was named the school’s associate dean.

“Since joining the BU law faculty in 1997, Ward Farnsworth has been a dedicated teacher, scholar, and administrator for our law school,” says Maureen O’Rourke, dean of LAW. “His students have benefited from his wisdom and guidance, and his faculty colleagues have enjoyed both his tremendous legal intellect and his quick wit.

“As the dean, I’ve been grateful for Ward’s insightful advice and unwavering commitment to our students,” O’Rourke adds. “While we are saddened by Ward’s departure, we are honored that he continues BU Law’s long tradition of producing leaders in legal education.”

Farnsworth says he’s known that he wanted to teach since his early days as a law student at the University of Chicago. But professorships are hard to come by for inexperienced law graduates, so he began amassing an impressive legal résumé, first by clerking for Richard A. Posner, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and then for Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. (A bobblehead replica of Kennedy stood on his office bookshelf.) Farnsworth later served as a legal advisor to the Iran–United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague. Only then did he land his first teaching position—as an associate professor at BU.

“I felt very fortunate to have the chance to come get started here at a school that has a great culture of both scholarship and teaching,” Farnsworth says.

He has enjoyed the classroom experience and especially BU’s “energetic and good-natured” students. He found community among his colleagues and felt supported by superiors. And as associate dean, he contributed to planning the school’s upcoming renovation, which will add classrooms and community space for students.

Leaving BU had not been on his mind, Farnsworth says, until UT invited him to apply for the position of law school dean. “I was attracted to the opportunity because I’ve been associate dean, and I enjoyed the work,” he says. “I thought that being a dean would be an interesting and exciting challenge in the right circumstance. And I decided this was the right circumstance.”

Farnsworth’s new job is not without its challenges. UT’s law school is bigger, both in terms of faculty and students—with two-thirds required to be Texas residents. As dean, he will also have to tackle some immediate fence-mending; the last dean resigned because of faculty unrest over compensation practices, complaints about sexual discrimination, and questions over the use of funds from the private law school foundation.

“It’s true that there are some divisions on the faculty about certain aspects of the way the place is run,” Farnsworth says. “One of my first jobs will be to try to bring peace to the school on those dimensions.”

The Illinois native says he and his family have never lived in Texas, but they are approaching the big move with an adventurous spirit. “I’m hoping that my experience with harsh Northeastern winters helped prepare me for the harsh Texas summers,” Farnsworth says. And he’s accentuating the positive to his kids. “I’ve got a 10-year-old son who loves soccer and he’s looking forward to being able to play it in February.”

Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

One Comment on Farnsworth New Dean of University of Texas School of Law

  • Everly on 05.31.2012 at 6:24 pm

    Fantastic! And well deserved.

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