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Updated: Mar 10

With the announcement that Laura Rosenbury has been named President-elect of Barnard College, by Fall of 2023, the presidents of NYU, Fordham, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Cooper Union, Brooklyn College and Barnard College, in New York City will all be woman lawyers. They join a lawyer president at Kings College. Hunter College President, lawyer Jennifer Raab, announced she will be stepping down at the end of this academic year as is Lee Bollinger at Columbia University.

Rosenbury is the first woman to serve as dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law in Gainsville, FL, where for the last eight years she has also been the Mabie & Levin Professor of Law. In announcing her appointment, Cheryl Milstein, the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees said, “Laura’s appointment is a culmination of a life and career dedicated to empowering women.” Ina Drew, co-Chair of the Search Committee and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “it was not just her incredible biography and remarkable scholarship that led to the unanimous decision by the board, but also her character and belief in the mission of our liberal arts college. Her devotion to an arts and science education, thoughtful and strategic approach to leadership, and striking emotional intelligence demonstrated that Barnard and Laura Rosenbury are a perfect match.” President-elect Rosenbury has a long list of impressive accomplishments at the University of Florida.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Rosenbury clerked for Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and for Judge Dennis Jacobs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She also served as a litigation associate at the Big Law firm Davis, Polk & Wardwell in New York City (a number of lawyer presidents had previously been employed at Davis, Polk). She also served as a law professor (2002 – 2015) and vice dean (20120-2015) at Washington University School of Law in S.t Louis. She visited at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago law schools. A scholar on feminist legal theory, she is the co-author of Feminist Jurisprudence: Cases and Materials.

Updated: Apr 10

On July 1, 2019 Joan T.A. Gabel became the 17th President of the University of Minnesota and the first woman to hold that office in the 167 year history of the institution. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Gabel was the first female executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina. Before that she was the Dean of the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business – where she was also the first female dean. At Florida State University she was chair of the Department of Risk Management/Insurance, Rea Estate and Legal Studies Director, and at Georgia State she was the interim director of the Institute of International Business. Gabel was also a Fulbright Scholar.

Gabel went to college at the age of 16. earned a J.D. from the University of Georgia, after which she practiced law before joining the faculty at Georgia State University and Florida State University. Reflecting on her background, “ she has credited that legal education for sharpening her skills to think, solve problems, and communicate—skills that come in handy in any job but particularly in higher education administration.” She commented, ““My education and professional experience across the liberal arts, business, the law and in higher ed administration position me uniquely to listen carefully, meet challenges and identify opportunities to collaborate with students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, policymakers and others to make this great University even greater.” When asked whether she feels any additional pressure breaking the glass ceiling and being the first woman president, she responded, “There is pressure, but I don’t know that that’s a bad thing. Every university president feels pressure. I don’t know that there’s any immunity from pressure, just because you’re not a first. But I do feel a sense of responsibility that may be unique.”

Joan Gabel joins a growing number of lawyer business school deans who have been appointed to lead the campus.

4/10/2023 Update: Joan T.A. Gabel was appointed in April 2023 as the first woman to lead the University of Pittsburgh as Chancellor. See, Joan T.A. Gabel named 19th University of Pittsburgh chancellor | University of Pittsburgh

On April 28, 2022, Dr. Felicia Ganther, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in Community Resources and Development, was installed as the fifth President of Bucks County Community College making her the first African American to hold the post in the school’s 58-year history. In describing why Ganther was selected for the presidency, David Breidinger, the First Chair of the College Board of Trustees said, “We wanted a leader who was innovative, passionate, and a strategic thinker with a history of cultural change and accomplishments. Dr. Ganther, check.”

Prior to joining Bucks County Community College, Dr. Ganther was the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs for the Maricopa County Community College District where she worked for nearly a decade. She has also taught speech, interpersonal/group communication, and higher education law courses. At Maricopa, she also facilitated the development a new branding system, website realignment and a system-wide enrollment process. Ganther has had a twenty-five year career in higher education and an impressive resume, working at schools in Virginia, Utah, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona and now Pennsylvania. Her focus was always in student affairs.

When asked in an interview, “If you could clone yourself, what other career would you pursue?” Ganther replied, “In law school I worked with the courts doing mediations for civil suits. I also was a teaching assistant for the director of the arbitration program. So, if I had a chance to clone myself, I would be an arbitrator/mediator. While the concepts are vested in the legal world, the way in which you as an arbitrator/mediator help two parties to come to some agreement is the same way you help community stakeholders find common ground on solving issues in their communities.” In the same interview she was asked to state her life motto in one sentence and she responded, “Never let fear paralyze you, because your gift will knock down any barrier and your passion for helping others will get you in places you never imagined.”

In another interview Ganther was asked, “As a working woman, what is the one organizational tool that you can’t live without?” She replied, “Interpersonal Communication. If you can’t develop dyadic relationships with the people you work for, work with, or who work for you…it’s a bust! This is a skill set that is often overlooked by leaders who are moving up their career ladder. Its great you know how to present publicly, you can send out emails, write superb documents…BUT...if you can’t talk with, emotionally connect to, and find commonality with each individual you are working with…those other shiny skills don’t matter.”

Ganther earned her J.D. from the University of Illinois’ John Marshall Law School.

Fun Fact: One thing we have in common – we both played the bass clarinet.

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