Michael A. Fitts, Robert G. Fuller, Jr. Professor of Law and a member of the Penn faculty for almost 15 years, has been named dean of the School, according to an announcement yesterday by President Judith Rodin.
The appointment will become effective upon confirmation by the Trustees on March 23.
Mr. Fitts succeeds Colin S. Diver, who stepped down August 15, 1999, after a decade of leadership of the Penn Law School. Charles W. Mooney, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs, has served as interim dean through the conclusion of the search.
Mr. Fitts, who was visiting professor of political science at Swarthmore College during his sabbatical leave last year, was associate dean for academic affairs at the Law School from 1996 to 1998.
"Michael Fitts is a first-rate scholar and teacher who is the embodiment of the [Robert G. Fuller Jr.] chair he holds, which honors legal scholarship and the ability to communicate the essential principles of law and a humanistic understanding of those principles," Dr. Rodin said. "Mike has superb academic judgment and proven leadership and administrative skills.
"Our search committee cast a very wide net throughout the academic world for a person who has a depth of experience in the research enterprise, who has shown a personal commitment to teaching excellence and who was willing and able to devote the energy and commitment that will continue to build our community and, most important, our world-class faculty," she said. "Mike Fitts is that person, and we are absolutely delighted he has accepted this new assignment."
Mr. Fitts was born and raised in West Philadelphia. Mr. Fitts' father, the late Dr. William T. Fitts, Jr., was John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery and chair of the department of surgery at Penn's School of Medicine. His maternal grandfather, Dr. Joseph H. Willits, was a professor and dean of the Wharton School.
Mr. Fitts received a bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1975, where he was the recipient of the Detur Prize and elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was a Harvard National Scholar. Mr. Fitts received a J.D. degree from Yale University Law School in 1979, where he was editor of the Yale Law Journal.
Mr. Fitts was law clerk to the late Hon. A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., U.S. Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, from 1979 to 1981.
From 1981 to 1985, Mr. Fitts was an attorney advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he received a Special Commendation Award from the Attorney General of the United States for his work. The Office of Legal Counsel serves as outside legal counsel to the President of the United States, the White House and various executive agencies.
A member of the faculty since 1985, Mr. Fitts was appointed associate professor of law in 1990, professor of law in 1992 and Robert G. Fuller, Jr. Professor of Law in 1996. His teaching at the Law School has included an interdisciplinary approach to administrative law, election law, government institutions, legislation and regulated industries.
Mr. Fitts has written widely on political institutions, separation of powers, the Presidency and Congress, including "Back to the Future: The Supreme Court's Response to the Changing Goals and Functions of Modern Political Parties," which will be included in the forthcoming book, The Supreme Court and the Electoral Process.
He has given papers and presentations at colleges and universities throughout the country, including Columbia, Georgetown, the University of Michigan, Stanford and Yale.
Mr. Fitts has been a board member of the Law and Political Process Study Group of the American Political Science Association, where he annually has made presentations and chaired panel discussions. He also has been a consultant to numerous government agencies on administrative law and presidential powers.
Mr. Fitts has served Penn in numerous capacities on a variety of university-wide committees, such as the University's Committee on Academic Planning and Budgeting (1995-98). He has been active in organizing a number of interdisciplinary programs between the Law School and other schools within the University.
Mr. Fitts also has served on various civic boards, including the Committee
of Seventy, a Philadelphia "watchdog" organization.
Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 24, March 7, 2000