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April 28, 2005

University names law dean

Pitt has named Mary A. Crossley, who holds an endowed professorship at Florida State University College of Law, as the new School of Law dean, the first woman dean in the school’s 110-year history.

Crossley’s appointment is effective in July. She will succeed David J. Herring, who is returning to the law school full-time faculty as a professor this fall.

Crossley, 43, whose specialties are disability law and health law, served on the faculty of the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California from 1991 to 2000, attaining the rank of professor in 1997 and serving as associate academic dean from 1998 to 2000. She joined the faculty of Florida State’s law school in 2001, after serving for a year as visiting professor at that institution.

Crossley also practiced health care and corporate law as an associate at the law firms of Shartsis, Friese & Ginsburg in San Francisco, 1990-91, and Wiggin & Dana in New Haven, 1988-89.

She was judicial clerk for the Hon. Harry W. Wellford of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Memphis, Tenn., in 1987-88, after earning her J.D. in 1987 at Vanderbilt University School of Law.

At Vanderbilt, she was a member of the Order of the Coif and served as Vanderbilt Law Review’s editor-in-chief. Crossley earned a B.A. in history from the University of Virginia in 1984.

“Part of the attraction of coming to Pitt is that there are established strengths and links between the law school and the School of Medicine and the medical center and other [health sciences] schools. As an advocate for civil rights, I was very pleased to see there are units such as the Center for Minority Health, for example,” Crossley told the University Times. “I think we can build on those strengths.”

Crossley eventually expects to teach, but not at first, she said. “I love teaching and I plan to be a teaching dean. Teaching always re-charges my batteries. But for the first term, I plan to immerse myself in learning all about the school and meeting my fellow deans and developing relationships with the faculty and students.”

She acknowledged that her fund-raising experience has been limited. “I know it’s expected of me as dean; that’s been made clear to me. I know there’s a learning curve, but it’s exciting to me to be able to go out to our alumni and friends and see what they have to say and to promote our programs.”

Asked about being named the school’s first woman dean, Crossley said, “I don’t feel any particular pressure about that. I am proud of it. The female population for law students has been growing nationally to nearly half, and it’s about time that that is reflected in administration as well, don’t you think?”

In announcing the appointment last week, Provost James V. Maher said, “I have great confidence that Professor Crossley will provide our School of Law with dynamic academic and organizational leadership and sound judgment.

Maher continued: “She shares our vision of a School of Law that will continue to strengthen its research and scholarship base, positioning its faculty to influence the development of the law and to prepare students to meet the challenges of demanding legal careers and leadership responsibilities, both nationally and internationally.”

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, a former dean of the Pitt law school, also praised the appointment.

“Professor Crossley’s ambition, energy and demonstrated abilities make her an ideal choice to lead our School of Law,” he said.

“Throughout her career, both as a professor and as an associate dean, she has shown a high level of commitment to her students. She is a nationally respected scholar, whose particular areas of interest and expertise are directly related to our own institutional strengths in the health sciences.”

Crossley also has extensive experience practicing law and holds a professorship created by the health law section of the Florida Bar Association, an indication of her scholarly strengths, Nordenberg said. “All of these qualities, combined with her enthusiasm for the opportunities that exist here at Pitt, permit us to confidently predict that there are very good days ahead for our School of Law,” the chancellor said.

Crossley has written and spoken on many of the most pressing legal issues presented by advances in medical science: discrimination in the treatment of infants with HIV infection and newborns with disabilities; the ramifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including the relevance of the ADA to health care rationing, insurance law and Medicaid managed care; the implications of the genetics revolution for understanding disability and criminality, and issues of inequality in health care generally.

Her scholarly articles have appeared in such journals as the Columbia Law Review, Hastings Law Journal, Issues in Law and Medicine, Notre Dame Law Review, Rutgers Law Journal and Vanderbilt Law Review.

Currently, she is working on a book about medical treatment choices for children.

Crossley is a member of the editorial board of the Florida Practitioner’s Health Law Handbook and serves as a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of California and the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics.

She has been admitted to practice before the Tennessee, Connecticut and California bars.

At Florida State, she has taught a number of courses related to health law including Health Law and Policy, Family Law, Health Care and Civil Rights, and Bioethics and Law.

Herring, who has been dean of Pitt’s law school since 1998, told the University Times, “Her appointment worked out as well as it possibly could for us. We’re getting an outside perspective from someone who has been at a number of very good law schools and is an eminent scholar as well as a teacher,” fitting the mold of the school’s faculty, he said.

“With her energy and enthusiasm I believe she can take our school to higher levels,” said Herring, who is stepping down as dean June 30.

—Peter Hart

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