After serving 10 years at the helm of the Northern Illinois University College of Law, Dean LeRoy Pernell will leave DeKalb in January 2008 to assume the deanship at the Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law in Orlando.
The appointment is pending the formal approval of the FAMU Board of Trustees, scheduled for Sept. 13.
As dean at FAMU College of Law, Pernell will continue efforts aimed at re-establishment and full accreditation of the law school, which reopened in 2002. In the troubled civil rights history of the United States, the loss of the previous Florida A&M College in Tallahassee (established in 1949) occurred in 1968. According to Pernell, the law school’s closing “represented a severe blow to legal education opportunity for African Americans in particular.”
The deanship at FAMU will offer Pernell a unique opportunity of national historic significance. Although he realizes the successful journey to full American Bar Association accreditation will not be easy, Pernell is convinced that he can provide positive leadership in an enterprise that is “emotionally close to my heart and symbolic of the very reason why I have dedicated my professional life to legal education.”
Pernell assumed the deanship of NIU Law in 1997. He came to NIU after serving as vice provost of the Office of Minority Affairs at The Ohio State University since 1994, where he also was a professor since 1975. As only one of two African-American deans at an Illinois law school and only one of a handful across the country, Pernell has long been recognized as a leader in diversity. It is at the core of his educational philosophy, and that focus is expressed throughout NIU Law.
Under Pernell’s leadership, NIU Law has been nationally recognized for its diversity efforts. The Princeton Review has ranked NIU Law among the Top 10 law schools in the nation as having the most diverse faculty for three straight years in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In its 2007 lists of America’s Best Graduate Schools, U.S. News and World Report ranked NIU Law among the top law schools for having a diverse student body. Furthermore, NIU Law has been honored to receive the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) Diversity Award in 2002, 2003 and 2006 in recognition of the school’s continuing commitment to diversifying the legal profession.
Pernell also established the clinical educational program and live client program, including the 2001 opening of the Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic in Rockford, Ill., which allow students, under direct supervision, to provide legal services to persons who might not otherwise have access to legal representation.
“Dean Pernell’s work to establish and grow the Zeke Giorgi legal clinic in Rockford exemplifies the leadership he has shown, setting a course that has established the college’s commitment to public service law that has grown into one of its great strengths,” said NIU Provost Raymond Alden III.
Other major accomplishments during Pernell’s tenure as dean include substantial growth in the integration of technology in the classroom. In 2004, NIU Law opened the Kenneth C. Chessick Legal Skills Training Center, which features a high-tech courtroom, “Smart” classroom, and deposition room to provide technology-enhanced training for law students.
In addition, Pernell has been active on national committees, including being an elected trustee of the Law School Admissions Council and an elected member of the American Law Institute. He also has had extensive participation in the accreditation review of numerous law schools on behalf of the American Bar Association.
While excited at the challenges that lay ahead at FAMU, Pernell said it will not be easy to leave NIU Law behind. “I have loved being dean here for the past 10 years because there has existed here a shared commitment to principles of fairness, access and positive change that has transcended ideological and political differences. This type of shared commitment is rare, and it has allowed us to accomplish a lot.”
A national search for Pernell’s replacement will begin shortly, Alden said. Strong leadership and demonstrated skills in building constituencies and fundraising will be among the criteria, he said.