Thomas Mengler, dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law for the past 10 years, on Friday was named president of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. The appointment is effective June 1.
Mengler, who holds the School of Law’s Ryan Chair in Law, had announced in November that he would be stepping down to explore other professional opportunities. During his tenure here, 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.
Ten years is a long tenure for a dean, he said last fall, adding that he was ready to hand over the School of Law to the next leader who will build on the strong foundation that is in place.
“I have only the highest praise for Tom’s accomplishments and his service to St. Thomas,” said Father Dennis Dease, president. “I want to both congratulate him and thank him. We’ll miss him greatly and we extend our best wishes to him and his family. I know he will be an outstanding president at St. Mary’s.”
When Mengler announced he would be leaving St. Thomas, Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer, noted that “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.
Last 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.
Mengler will replace Dr. Charles Cotrell, who served 13 years as St. Mary’s first lay president. “On behalf of St. Mary’s, I welcome the Mengler family to the St. Mary’s community,” he said. “I look forward to working with Tom as he transitions, introducing him to our vibrant city and to our outstanding alumni in San Antonio, the state of Texas and beyond.”
Father Martin Solma, S.M., chancellor of St. Mary’s, said: “Tom is committed to Catholic higher education, social justice issues, academic quality and the formation of students as servant leaders – all facets integral to the Catholic and Marianist traditions of St. Mary’s University.”
“Under President Cotrell’s outstanding leadership, St. Mary’s faculty and staff have helped prepare students to lead lives of significance, and St. Mary’s has played a central role in building community both on campus and off. I am truly honored to follow in President Cotrell’s footsteps and to serve this great Catholic and Marianist university,” Mengler said. “The value of a strong liberal arts education is more important than ever in today’s competitive world, where critical thinking coupled with a desire for community engagement and service develops leaders ready to improve their world.”
Mengler is the fourth St. Thomas administrator in the past decade to become president of a college or university. Dr. Ted Fredrickson, former business dean, became president of Capital University in Ohio in 2001. Dr. Judith Dwyer, former executive vice president, became president of Xavier University in Chicago in 2003. And Dr. Tom Rochon, former chief academic officer, became president of Ithaca College in New York in 2008.
The oldest Catholic university in Texas, St. Mary’s was founded in 1852 by the Society of Mary (Marianists). It enrolls about 4,000 students and has five schools: Humanities and Social Sciences; Science, Engineering and Technology; Bill Greehey School of Business; Graduate; and Law.