After a six-week search, DePaul University College of Law has named an interim dean to replace Dean Gregory Mark, who will resign at the end of the academic year.
Professor Bruce L. Ottley, a 36-year DePaul veteran, will assume his new duties on June 1.
“I’ve been around the law school for a long time,” Ottley said. “I’ve done administration here before. So I guess they figured that I could do it again.”
A professor of remedies and product liabilities, civil procedures and torts, Ottley served as DePaul’s associate dean for nine years, most recently from 1996 to 2000. He also had a brief stint as acting dean in 2006 when Dean Glen Weissenberger was ill.
Mark announced his resignation at a faculty meeting on Jan. 23.
Interim Provost Patricia O’Donoghue, who announced Ottley’s appointment Thursday, led the search process. She met with faculty, staff, students and alumni before the selection was made.
“(I) asked them what qualities they were looking for in an interim dean and whom they thought might serve that function well,” O’Donoghue said. “And Bruce Ottley’s name emerged with increasing frequency in every group. He is a highly respected member of this community.”
Ottley’s contract as interim dean runs until June 30, 2015. School officials hope to hire a permanent replacement by the end of the next academic year. The school’s last interim dean, Warren D. Wolfson, served from 2009 to 2011.
Not counting interims, the new dean will be the 14th in the law school’s 102-year history and is slated to take office July 1, 2015.
“We are moving quickly,” O’Donoghue said. “There are many dean positions open throughout the legal community, so we have started forming our search committee already. As soon as we have that formalized, we will begin that process.”
Ottley is not a candidate for the permanent position.
“I am almost 67 years old and being a dean is a young person’s game,” Ottley said. “It’s not something at this stage in my career that I would look forward to doing.”
He stressed that point to O’Donoghue when he accepted the interim position.
“Bruce has other scholarly interests,” O’Donoghue said. “I am just grateful that he has accepted this position.”
As interim dean, Ottley’s main goal is to help students get ready to enter the ever-evolving legal marketplace.
“The legal profession is in the midst of a seismic change,” he said. “The biggest challenge I face over the next 12 to 15 months and the biggest challenge the new dean will face is preparing students for this new world of legal practice, which is something that we are not familiar with.”
Ottley plans on speaking with alumni, attorneys, judges and business professionals to learn more about how best to ready DePaul’s students.
“I’m sort of lucky, in one sense, that my wife is a partner in a big firm, Winston & Strawn,” he said. “She keeps me up to date with what’s going on in a big firm. But most students don’t go to big firms. They go to small- or medium-size firms and increasingly hang out their own shingle and go into private practice.”
Upon the conclusion of his term as interim dean, Ottley plans to return to teaching. In the event that the search extends beyond Ottley’s interim contract, O’Donoghue will discuss the prospect of Ottley remaining in the position until the school makes its hire.
With the combination of Ottley’s wishes and the competition among law schools looking to hire deans, however, O’Donoghue hopes the search will be completed well before Ottley’s contract expires.
“He is fairly adamant that this is one year,” O’Donoghue said. “He was very good about taking on that challenge, and I want to be respectful of his wishes.”
O’Donoghue will also be changing positions soon, and, like Ottley, it will be on a temporary basis.
She will serve as interim president from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 while the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider takes an academic leave of absence to teach and write at Harvard University. She plans to retire after he returns.
“He’s not going to be far away,” Ottley said. “And he deserves a break to recharge his batteries, get new ideas and to take a little break from being president of a major university.”
Ottley added that the school is in good hands with O’Donoghue as interim president, just as O’Donoghue feels the same about the interim dean position being filled by Ottley.
“Transitional periods are always times of uncertainty,” O’Donoghue said. “What I am hoping Bruce will be able to do is to engage every aspect of the community in charting the course of the future of the law school and really establishing a strategic agenda for the future. …
“He hit the ground running and he’s not appointed for another month or two, so that’s OK.”