Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let us now praise Alex Johnson

Now that Brian Leiter has publicized the University of Virginia's press release on Alex Johnson's return to Charlottesville, I thought I would say a few words about my former boss.

Alex JohnsonNo person in legal academia has taught me more, or been more generous with his time and political capital, than Alex Johnson. He earned -- and deserved -- the fierce loyalty of his lieutenants. The name of this forum, MoneyLaw, owes its origins to long discussions we had about the careful stewardship and effective deployment of our law school's resources. Our shared passion for legal education, baseball, and the University of Minnesota defined the four years I was privileged to serve on a law faculty led by Alex Johnson.

Alex served all too briefly as dean at Minnesota. During those hundred fortnights in which he presided, however, Minnesota accomplished extraordinary things. As detailed in Virginia's press release, Alex "recruited and hired 19 faculty members to 'reinvigorate the faculty and the enterprise.'"

Budget cutsEven more remarkably, Alex posted this phenomenal record during a period of brutal budget cuts. The University of Minnesota slashed the law school budget on his arrival. The University and the state continued slashing, each year Alex served as dean. Alex responded by "revamp[ing] the alumni relations office" and "ramp[ing] up on our annual giving campaign." The bottom line? "We were actually able to not only cover the shortfalls, we were able to increase the budget and hire all those faculty members."

What once was allegory must now be stated explicitly:
There was a . . . dean . . . whose effective tenure was devoted to making the school's stakeholders brave and dignified and good . . . . When he left the people burst into tears in the halls and their minds wailed, "What can we do now? How can we go on without him?"
And if your literary taste runs far afield from John Steinbeck, then I'll offer another allegorical source of inspiration:
PisgahAnd Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho: and the Lord showed him all the land of Gil'e-ad, unto Dan, and all Naph'tali, and the land of E'phra-im, and Manas'seh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zo'ar.
סלה -- Selah, y'all.


Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Jim: "hree deans" was one of the best moneylaw posts. Now that you have identified dean three, why not fill out the slate with deans one and two?

8/23/2007 2:29 PM  
Blogger Jim Chen said...

Alex is allegory made flesh, Dean #3 come to life. The others, at least for the moment, must remain entombed as symbols, as emblems of all that academia should not be but is.

8/27/2007 6:59 PM  

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