BU law dean to leave post after 14 years

By Marcella Bombardieri, Globe Staff, 4/10/2004

Ronald A. Cass, the dean of Boston University Law School, announced yesterday that he will resign at the end of the academic year after 14 years in the post.

Cass was a finalist for the BU presidency last year, before trustees offered the job, and later revoked their offer, to former NASA chief Daniel S. Goldin.

During Cass's tenure, BU's law school rose in the US News & World Report rankings from 43d to 23d. Since 1996, the Princeton Review has ranked the law school's professors as among America's best teaching faculty. Cass hired nationally known professors, including intellectual-property specialist Wendy J. Gordon and theorists David B. Lyons and Keith N. Hylton. He also improved the quality of the faculty and student body, several observers said.

Seeking to be more selective, he said in an interview yesterday that he reduced the size of the school by 40 percent. "Now everybody is in the top half of the class, like Lake Wobegon," he said.

Recently, Cass spurred controversy when he revealed that a capital campaign for a new law school building had not raised as much as he had said. Cass had told faculty and alumni that the school had raised $36 million; he later told a faculty meeting that the real number was closer to $10 million.

"Somebody promises you money that may or may not be reduced to a formal pledge," Cass said yesterday. "There isn't any missing money."

Cass, an authority on international trade and antitrust law, said he plans to do some scholarly writing after his resignation.


A Letter From Dean Ronald A. Cass

April 9, 2004

To the Boston University School of Law Community:

I have served as Dean of the Boston University School of Law for the past fourteen years. During that time, the School has improved markedly. We have a top-flight student body, nationally prominent faculty, better physical plant, and successful alumni across the nation and around the world. We have reformed our curriculum, created opportunities for international study, and added new degree programs.

Our rankings have improved commensurately, with top ratings in teaching, recognition as one of the best values in legal education, and solid rankings everywhere. Even US News & World Report now ranks us among the top twenty-five law schools. This year's ranking, at 23, is twenty places higher than when I began my deanship. Credit for these accomplishments must be shared, but I am proud to have been at the helm during such a remarkable period of success for the School.

Although I am pleased with the School's present standing, I know that our success is not complete. Most obviously, we need a new building, and as my letter of March 1, 2004 explains, we are not yet able to announce when that building will go up. The University has some costly construction projects, including ours, and constraints on its ability to fund them. The timing of this project depends most critically on those factors. Of course, we continue to pursue funds for this project as well. This pursuit has produced the first million-dollar gifts in our school's history and laid the foundation on which we must build. Our processes for recording and reporting gifts, pledges, and promises have differed in some respects from the system used by the University's central development offices, and we are changing our processes to conform to those used by the University. The University is conducting a review which will help us to make that transition. It is important in this context to emphasize that, contrary to some speculation, all funds received are fully accounted for and every dollar received for our building and other capital funds is secure.

It is important, as well, to remind ourselves of our shared goal and the gains we have made at the school these past fourteen years. Throughout my service as Dean, I have remained committed to promoting the School's interests and focused on fulfilling the mission of making this permanently one of the very finest law schools anywhere. I continue to believe in that mission.

I am now making a change that stirs deeply mixed emotions. I am stepping down as Dean at the conclusion of the academic year. This change, while a poignant one, will allow me to explore new scholarly and other professional projects and to do work that I have put aside for the many years I have spent in administration. I will of course always remember what has made the past fourteen years so rewarding for me, most of all the people I've had the privilege to know and to work with during this time.

I am grateful to the many donors, alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends who have expressed confidence in my leadership and support for the achievements of the past fourteen years. I will miss all of the extended law school family with whom I've worked so closely for so long.

Ronald A. Cass