When Paul L. Caron, the Duane and Kelly Roberts dean and professor of law at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law and publisher and editor of Tax Prof Blog, posted his blog titled, “Deaning While Stuttering,” he didn’t expect it to garner so much attention.
The blog post has received more than 10,900 page views, Caron told Law.com Friday morning, and to date has had 4.3K social media shares. ...
Caron joined the Pepperdine Law faculty in 2013 after serving as the D & L Straus Distinguished Visiting Professor in the spring semesters in 2010 to 2013. He served as associate dean for Research and Faculty Development at Pepperdine in 2015-2017. He previously was associate dean of faculty and Charles Hartsock Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, according to his bio.
“I loved being in a leadership role focused mainly on internal matters while the dean did all of the public-facing work giving speeches and interacting with alumni, donors, friends, etc.,” Caron told Law.com. “I fancied myself as a loyal Robin while Batman did all of the stuff I couldn’t do.”
Then, when the former dean announced she was leaving, “my wife and several friends suggested that I throw my hat in the ring,” Caron said. “I loved Pepperdine’s unique mission in combining academic excellence with a strong Christian faith heritage.”
“I was very concerned that my stutter would keep the faculty and university from choosing me and would prevent me from being an effective dean if I were selected,” he said, adding that he would not have applied to a deanship at any other law school.
“I decided to not let my stutter keep me from pursuing what I believed was a calling on me at this particular place and at this time in my life,” Caron added.
Andrew K. Benton, president emeritus of Pepperdine University, who served as the school’s seventh president from 2000 to 2019, hired Caron as dean. Benton told Law.com that he knew Caron as a scholar and entrepreneur, referring to Caron’s blog, and he sat in when Caron gave his faculty talk when applying for the deanship.
“I sat in the back row, and I thought ‘this guy communicates very well,’” Benton said. “He brought a great competence combined with humility and compassion,” adding that not many deans have that. Caron knew how to operate as a leader and as a colleague, Benton said, saying “I didn’t hire him because of his speech impediment—I hired him because it didn’t matter.” ...
“I am forever grateful to former President Andy Benton and Provost Rick Marrs for choosing me to be dean for the past five years; current President Jim Gash and Provost Jay Brewster for reappointing me to another five year term; and students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors and friends for giving me grace when I fall short of the standard set by my predecessors,” Caron wrote in his blog. ...
Caron told Law.com that he “never talked about [his stutter] until after I applied to become dean.”
“Over the past few years I have talked about it in several formal speeches in front of large groups as well as in several dinner gatherings with a small number of old and new friends,” he said, adding that reactions to his stutter have been “uniformly positive when I have talked openly about the challenges I have faced being a dean who stutters.”
“I hope my story will help others confront and overcome whatever challenges they are facing or will face in life,” he added, and it has.
Caron has received tremendous support including an email and public comment from Stan Fisher, who taught at Boston University Law School professor for 50 years. “I very much admire how you advertised, rather than hid, your disability,” Fisher wrote.