Wendell E. Pritchett has been named interim dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School for the 2014-15 academic year. Currently the chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden, Pritchett is returning this summer to Penn, where he was previously professor of law and an associate dean of Penn Law, to become a Presidential Term Professor. As interim dean, he succeeds Michael A. Fitts, who will leave June 30 to become president of Tulane University.
The announcement of Pritchett’s appointment was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price. A search for a new dean will begin later this spring and continue into 2014-15. As interim dean, Pritchett will not be a candidate for the permanent position.
Pritchett is an award-winning urban historian, an accomplished educational leader and administrator and a distinguished legal teacher and scholar. He served as a Penn Law faculty member from 2001 to 2009 and earned a Ph.D. in history from Penn in 1997. He earned a J.D. from Yale University in 1991 and a B.A. in political science from Brown University in 1986.
During his time at Penn Law, Pritchett served as associate dean for academic affairs from 2006 to 2007. In 2008, he served as deputy chief of staff and director of policy for Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, who appointed him to the School Reform Commission in 2011. In 2012, Pritchett was elected president of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, a national consortium of higher education institutions.
“We are honored that Dr. Pritchett has agreed to take on this position,” Gutmann said. “Wendell brings a passionate commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement to help address our society’s most pressing problems — urban education, redevelopment, housing, poverty and race relations foremost among them,” Gutmann said.
“Wendell’s extensive experience as an academic leader and administrator, his expertise in urban policy and education, and his familiarity with the realities and dynamics of government make him the ideal interim leader of Penn Law,” Price said. “His leadership will benefit both Penn Law and the entire University.”
"I am deeply honored by President Gutmann's confidence in my ability to serve as Interim Dean for the 2014-2015 school year,” Pritchett said. “Penn Law is one of a small handful of truly great law schools. I very much look forward to working with my colleagues on the faculty, as well as the staff, students, alumni, and stakeholders of Penn Law to continue the school's distinction as a national leader in research, teaching, and service."
Gutmann and Price had praise for Fitts and his leadership during a period of serious challenges facing legal education and the legal profession. During his tenure, the Law School’s interdisciplinary approach to legal education and its collaborative ethos made it the leader in cross-disciplinary legal studies that integrate knowledge across traditional professional boundaries.