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Oldest Law School In The Country Appoints Its First Black Dean

Oldest Law School In The Country Appoints Its First Black Dean

Talk about long overdue!

The oldest law school in the country, William & Mary, announced the hiring of its first Black Dean since its inception 241 years ago. 

According to W&M Law School, A. Benjamin Spencer will become the first African American dean at the university. Spencer is an accomplished civil procedure and federal courts expert with an impressive resume in and outside of higher education. He comes to W&M from the University of Virginia (UVA) where he’s worked as a professor since 2014, focusing on civil procedure, federal civil litigation and military law. He was the former Director of the Francis Lewis Law Center and associate dean of research at Washington and Lee University after beginning his career at the University of Richmond School of Law. Spencer is also a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and argues appeals on behalf of the army. 

In addition to his role as dean, Spencer will also serve as the Chancellor Professor of Law at W&M. A recipient of several awards, he has helped many faculty and students frame their institutions around curriculum and inclusion, serving as faculty advisor for the Black Law Students Association at UVA. He has experience ranging from private, government, and international service dating back to his time in the British Marshall Scholar program at the London School of Economics. He is also a member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, and his vast knowledge of law makes him a huge asset to the W&M faculty. 

President Katherine A. Rowe spoke about Spencer’s appointment, saying, “William & Mary is thrilled to welcome Ben Spencer as our next dean of the law school. Since the beginning of the search process we sought a leader who values all three aspects of the law: the academy, the bar and the bench. Ben brings that broad view of legal practice, together with a deep appreciation of the ethos of the citizen lawyer that has inspired the oldest law school in the country since its founding.”

The Hampton native comes from a long line of academia. Spencer’s father, James R. Spencer, was the first African American chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, becoming the first African-American federal judge in the commonwealth of Virginia in 1986. Spencer’s grandfather, Dr. Adam S. Arnold, was the first Black professor at Notre Dame University and his mother, Alicia Spencer, is a retired elementary school principal in Newport News.

Spencer said he is excited to step into his new role and credits William & Mary for bringing him out of private practice into education. “It was not until the hiring committee from William & Mary approached me back in 2003 that I gave any thought to becoming a law professor.  I am tremendously excited that after all these years, I am finally able to join this wonderful community of impactful scholars. I am particularly enthusiastic about the university’s commitment to a whole-person, whole-university approach to learning and its commitment to understanding and meeting the most pressing needs of our time,” Spencer said. 

He is set to begin work as the new dean at W&M Law School on July 1st. 

Congratulations Dean Spencer!

Photo Courtesy of UVA