Penn Law dean named Tulane president

Michael A. Fitts at the Penn law school. He was credited with raising its reputation and hiring faculty while keeping enrollment stable.
Michael A. Fitts at the Penn law school. He was credited with raising its reputation and hiring faculty while keeping enrollment stable. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 06, 2014

Michael A. Fitts, dean of the University of Pennsylvania law school since 2000, has been named president of Tulane University in New Orleans and will take over there July 1.

Penn made the announcement late Tuesday afternoon, praising Fitts' leadership of the law school during a time of significant academic change.

"Mike Fitts is an inspired choice to become the next president of Tulane University," Penn president Amy Gutmann said. "He is a skilled and strategic leader whose vision has propelled Penn Law to ever greater heights."

Fitts, an expert on administrative law, has won high marks for greatly expanding the law school's interdisciplinary programs, in which students receive training in academic areas outside law. He also expanded the faculty by about 40 percent, while the size of the incoming freshman class remained about the same, 240.

"It has been my honor and privilege to have spent my academic career devoted to this wonderful institution," Fitts said in a statement. "Working with the talented students, faculty, and staff at Penn has truly been a jog."

"Together we've achieved so much that has enriched the intellectual climate at the law school and the university more broadly."

Although Fitts attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and earned his law degree at Yale University, he has deep roots at Penn.

His father was on the faculty of the medical school and was chief of surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Fitts' mother earned a graduate degree at Penn, and his maternal grandfather was for a time dean of the Wharton School.

During his tenure as dean, Fitts oversaw the remaking of the law school's physical plant, including the Golkin Hall project, a 40,000-square-foot building completed in 2012.

He was credited with greatly improving Penn Law's standing among its peer institutions. Penn once had been an institution where other Ivies recruited some of their faculty. That process has been reversed to some extent, and now Penn is able to attract top academic talent away from competitors.


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