Thomas Mengler, dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law and holder of the Ryan Chair in Law, has announced that he will step down on June 30, 2012.
As dean for the past 10 years, Mengler guided the School of Law to several important milestones, including American Bar Association accreditation, the $100 million mark in fundraising and hiring a nationally recognized faculty.
In announcing his resignation, Mengler noted that he felt the timing was right. Ten years is a long tenure for a dean, he said, and he is ready to hand over the School of Law to the next leader who will build on the strong foundation that is in place. Mengler wants to explore other professional opportunities, which may include leading a college or returning to the faculty.
Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer, praised Mengler’s service as law school dean.
“Tom took a big chance when he came here as dean of an unaccredited law school that had been open for only one year, and he has done a superb job,” she said. “He hired an excellent faculty and staff, recruited top students, opened a new building, achieved accreditation and helped to raise a significant amount of money. We will long be indebted to him for putting our School of Law on the map.”
Mengler joined the School of Law as its second dean in June 2002. He presided over the opening of the law school building and the first commencement in 2004, and his leadership was critical to the school receiving early ABA accreditation in February 2006.
Dedicated to the school’s mission to “integrate faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice,” Mengler helped to build a unique law school culture.
As the quality of the student body increased, the mission remained central and students, faculty and staff responded. The Princeton Review ranked the School of Law first through fourth among more than 175 law schools for “Student Quality of Life” between 2005 and 2010, and earlier this year the publication named the faculty to the list of “Best Professors.”
Mengler also was part of attracting and leading a talented group of professors who last year ranked No. 38 among 200 ABA-accredited law schools based on the number of law journal citations over five years. The school entered U.S. News and World Report’s law school rankings in the third tier (out of four tiers); only three of 23 new law schools have entered the rankings in the third tier or above.
This fall, the School of Law passed the $100 million mark in gifts as it celebrated its 10th anniversary. Gifts and pledges to the school during St. Thomas’ Opening Doors capital campaign have exceeded $38 million and include endowments to support seven faculty chairs or professorships, student scholarships, and the establishment of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy and the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions.
Minnesota Lawyer magazine selected Mengler in 2008 as one of Minnesota’s “10 Legal Newsmakers of the Decade.” Others included U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty and two former chief justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
After graduating from Carleton College, Mengler earned an M.A. in philosophy and a J.D. from the University of Texas, where he served on the law review and was awarded Order of the Coif at graduation. He clerked for Judge James Logan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Kansas, before becoming an associate at Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., and serving as an assistant attorney general in Texas.
Mengler joined the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) College of Law in 1985 as an assistant professor of law and eventually dean. During his tenure at Illinois, he also served from April to October 1998 as interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.