Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, May 3, 2013


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Southwestern Names Susan Prager 11th Dean





Southwestern Law School Dean-Elect

Southwestern Law School yesterday named Susan Westerbrook Prager as its 11th dean, effective this fall. 

The school said Prager, former dean of UCLA’s law school and currently executive director/chief executive officer of the Association of American Law Schools, will serve a five-year term. She will succeed Bryant Garth, who retired in July of last year and now holds the title of dean emeritus.

Attorney Thomas Hoberman, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said the board had chosen Prager, 70, after a national search, because of her “stellar credentials and outstanding national reputation in the legal academy and higher education, her pragmatic and inspired vision for our law school, and the extremely enthusiastic support voiced by members of the Southwestern community.”

Prager said in a statement:

“Southwestern is a remarkable place, with a rich tradition of making a difference in the futures of its students. The law school’s innovative and collaborative spirit is part of its DNA, and the faculty and countless graduates are committed to helping today’s students contribute to the complex and challenging worlds they will occupy as professionals. I feel privileged to have been asked to lead Southwestern Law School at this challenging and exciting time in legal education.”

 She will be the first woman to hold the post, the school, which was founded over 100 years ago, noted in a press release.

Law Review Editor

Prager grew up outside Sacramento and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Stanford University. She completed her law degree in 1971 at UCLA, where she served as editor-in-chief of the UCLA Law Review.  

She practiced law in Durham, N.C. for a time, but returned to UCLA in 1972 as a member of the law faculty, teaching in the areas of community property, family law, wills and trusts, and historic preservation. When she was named dean a decade later, Prager was the first female law dean in the UC system and one of only two women serving in that capacity in the entire country.

She became the school’s longest-tenured dean ever, serving from 1982 to 1998. The Clinical Wing and the Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library were built during her tenure.

After losing out as a finalist for the UCLA chancellorship in 1997, she completed her tenure at the law school and accepted appointed as provost, the No. 2 administrative position, at Dartmouth College. She returned to teaching law in 2001, rejoining UCLA.

She was named president of Occidental College in 2006, but left the post after 18 months. News accounts at the time quoted faculty members as saying she was a strong fundraiser, but not a strong leader, and Prager herself acknowledged that she had failed to build adequate relationships with senior administrators and the chairman of the Board of Trustees.

She joined the AALS in 2008. The group’s president, Leo Martinez, a professor at Hastings College of the Law said in a statement that “she leaves a better organization than she inherited, and her wealth of experience will be an indispensable part of Southwestern Law School’s future success.”

‘Turbulent Periods’

The president-elect of the AALS, Dean Daniel Rodriguez of Northwestern University School of Law, said she had led the group during “one of the most turbulent periods in legal education.” Prager’s “willingness to get right back in the saddle and take on a deanship,” he said, evidences her “commitment to the improvement of legal education.”

Prager herself served as AALS president, the second woman ever elected to that post, while at UCLA. She also served on the governing boards of the Law School Admission Coun­cil and the Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

She was a trustee of Stanford University for 14 years, and has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Pacific Mutual Holding Company, owner of Pacific Life Insurance Company, since 1979 and served on the California Commission on Campaign Financing and the California Community Colleges Commission on Innovation.

Both the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the UCLA Latino Alumni Association have honored her for her commitment to racial diversity, and she received the first Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the UCLA Law Alumni Association.

Interim Dean Austen Parris said of Prager:

“Her distinguished career fits wonderfully with Southwestern’s mission, the school’s leadership in providing a practice-focused legal education, and its extraordinary commitment to the local community.  Her insights and wealth of experience, as well has her strong connections to Los Angeles, make Susan an exceptional choice.”


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