Specter gets a teaching gig at Penn

Arlen Specter may also consider teaching at Phila. University.
Arlen Specter may also consider teaching at Phila. University.
Posted: January 05, 2011

Finished with a 30-year career in the Senate, Arlen Specter will take his talents to the University of Pennsylvania's law school, Penn announced Tuesday.

As an adjunct faculty member, Specter will teach an upper-level course on the relationship between Congress and the Supreme Court, beginning in fall 2011, Penn officials said.

"It's a subject matter which could use a lot more understanding. And it's a subject which warrants additional study. Penn Law is a good place to do it," Specter, 80, said in an interview.

He said he called Dean Michael A. Fitts last October about the possibility.

Penn officials were pleased to land the longest-serving senator in Pennsylvania history, as well as a Penn alumnus who earned a bachelor's degree in international relations in 1951.

"Arlen's knowledge of the inner workings of the government and lawmaking is second to none," Fitts said in a statement. "The insight he brings from his career in public service, particularly as a leader on judicial issues, will be invaluable to our students as they prepare for their own careers in the law."

Specter's course will focus on the separation of powers and the confirmation process. Specter has participated in the confirmation of 14 Supreme Court nominees.

"I've got a lot of transcripts and and I've asked a lot of questions. Some I've even gotten answers to," he said.

Specter said he also remained open to teaching at Philadelphia University, which announced in July that it was building a library to house his papers and celebrate his work.

With the help of $4 million in state funding, the university plans to renovate its historic Roxboro House for the library, where Specter will have an office. Construction is expected to begin next fall.

Philadelphia University president Stephen Spinelli Jr. said at the time that he hoped Specter would lecture at the school and become as involved as possible. Specter, who lives near the school, said he was open to that possibility but nothing has been decided.

Specter said he had no plans to teach at any other universities besides Penn and possibly Philadelphia University.

It will not be his first stint as a college professor, or a Penn law school professor for that matter.

A former Philadelphia district attorney, he taught at Penn Law in from 1969 to 1971, and at Temple Law from 1971 to 1974.

Specter was first elected to represent Pennsylvania in 1980. A longtime moderate Republican, he has supported of abortion rights, gay rights, and funding for stem-cell research, causing him to clash with party conservatives.

From 1963 to 1964, he was assistant counsel to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, where he promulgated the single-bullet theory.

He took the spotlight in 1991 for his blistering interrogation of former law professor Anita Hill, who had accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

And he gained notoriety in 2009 when he switched to the Democratic Party and later lost a bid for reelection to his sixth term.

He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005, but continued working full-time and subsequently wrote a book about his successful battle.

Penn president Amy Gutmann, in a statement, heralded Specter's support of federal funding for research and called him among Penn's most accomplished alumni.

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com.

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