Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Louis Bilionis, Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law since 2005, has announced that he will not seek a third term as dean and will return to the faculty on July 1, 2015. Lou has been a spectacular dean in every respect, but these three decanal attributes stand out to me:
The Dean as Intellectual Leader. Prior to coming to Cincinnati, Lou was the Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at North Carolina and had a distinguished publication record (including articles in the Emory Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Michigan Law Review (2), North Carolina Law Review (3), Texas Law Review, and UCLA Law Review). He was a voracious reader of faculty drafts, and would offer constructive suggestions that always improved the pieces and their placement. At workshops, he would typically hang back and then offer trenchant observations that invariably pushed the speaker in new and unanticipated directions. In annual performance reviews, he would prod faculty to expand their scholarly ambitions.
The Dean as Institutional Leader. Lou's leadership style combined a deep commitment to faculty governance with an action-oriented mindset. He would solicit faculty views on issues and then lead the school toward those shared goals. I have never seen a dean accomplish so much with so little faculty pushback. And I have never seen a dean navigate a university bureaucracy on behalf of a law school with such skill and success.
The Dean as Inspiring Leader. Lou has an infectious enthusiasm that ennobles those around him. His relentlessly positive attitude rubs off on faculty, students, staff, and alumni. He is one of those rare people who breathe life into those around him. These qualities have never been more crucial than in this time of crisis for legal education.
I have been thinking about Lou quite a bit as I prepared my recent talk on The Role of Faculty Scholarship at Faith-Based Law Schools. One of the great privileges of my career was serving as his Associate Dean of Faculty in 2007-10, and much of what I know about legal education I learned from him. Lou was a great dean and colleague, and an even better friend. He and I share a love of baseball, and I will never forget our too-infrequent trips to Great American Ballpark to watch the Reds and spend hours chatting about life, family, and legal education. My wife rightly says that the greatest contribution I made in my 20+ years at Cincinnati was serving on the dean search committee that recruited Lou to come to Cincinnati.