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  • Writer's picturePatricia Salkin

In a Government Town, It Should be No Surprise that Lawyers are Turned to for Campus Leadership

Thinking about the Capital Region of New York State, many of the colleges and universities have turned to lawyers as their choice to lead the campus. For example, long-serving former Union College President Roger Hull (1990-2005) earned his LLB from Yale Law School, and an LLM and SJD from the University of Virginia; former Skidmore College President Jamienne S. Studley (1999 – 2003) earned a JD from Harvard Law School; James Barba, former President of Albany Medical Center and College (1995-2020) earned his JD from Notre Dame Law School; George M. Philip who was first appointed as interim and then President of the University at Albany in 2007 (until 2011) earned a JD from Western New England School of Law; (the first lawyer President at the University at Albany was H. Patrick Swygert who served from 1990-1995, earned his JD from Howard Law School); Excelsior College appointed their acting president James Baldwin as President in 2016 (where he served until 2020) and he earned his JD from Albany Law School; and Carrianna C. Eurillo who was he campus president of Mildred Elley Albany (2012-2014) earned her JD from Albany Law School.

Five of the seven presidents had prior government experience. The remaining two with no government experience had worked in the Capital Region. Three of the former presidents worked in higher education prior to their appointments, and three had previously served on college boards of trustees.

When Roger Hull was appointed as the 17th President of Union College, he brought experience in higher education first as Vice President for Development and Planning and Adjunct Professor of Law at Syracuse University and then as President of Beloit College (1981- 1990). He had also practiced law in both the public and private sectors. However, when he was a 27-year old attorney with White and Case in New York, having graduated from Yale Law School, he was appointed by Governor Holton to the Board of Visitors at William & Mary in 1970 (the youngest member of the board). In a 1976 interview, Roger Hull had disclosed that he desired to pursue a career in higher education and that led to his decision to continue his education beyond the LLB and enroll at the University of Virginia. He commuted to school from Charlottesville where he served as the Governor’s lawyer. During the interview, Hull also talked about the experience serving on the Board of Visitors right after Cambodia and Kent State. Hull also worked for the federal government in the State Department.

Jamienne Studley was appointed as the 6th President of Skidmore College in 1999, and the first women to hold that role. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Studley had previously served as acting general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education, and she was an associate Dean at Yale Law School. The announcement of her appointment praised her as bringing, “…a dedication to liberal arts, combined with broad experience and a command of the issues we face today in higher education.” Among the positions in education Studley has maintained following her tenure at Skidmore have been: Chair of NACIQI (USDOE), Deputy Undersecretary at the USDOE, a consultant to the Aspen Institute as an advisor to their project on the future of the college presidency, and currently as President of WASC Senior College and University Commission.

James Barba was president of Albany Medical Center and College from 1995-2020. Prior to that he had served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Albany Medical Center. Before to joining Albany Medical Center, Barba was in private practice with Hiscock & Barclay in Albany. The longest serving President of AMC, Barba graduated from Siena College and earned his JD from Notre Dame Law School.

After earning his JD at Howard University School of Law, H. Patrick Swygert worked in Washington, DC for Rep. Charles Rangel. He joined Temple University Law School where he taught and served as acting dean before leaving to work as Counsel to the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Two years later he returned to Temple University as special counsel to the President and as a law professor where he was also vice president for university administration and executive vice president. He was appointed as President of the University at Albany in 1990, leaving in 1995 to become the 15th President of Howard University. Swygert knew in high school he was going to be a lawyer. Swygert clerked for Chief Judge William H. Hastie of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and he also served as a special assistant district attorney. He also worked as an associate at Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates in New York City. George M. Philip, the second lawyer president at UAlbany, assumed the role in 2009 after having served as interim president since 2007. Prior to his appointment, Philip was the executive director of the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System. He also served as Chair of the University at Albany Council. SUNY interim chancellor Dr. John B. Clark noted at the time Philip was appointed as interim president that they expected, “…George will build on his outstanding record of public service…” and at the time it was announced he would not be a candidate for the permanent position.

James Baldwin was first appointed acting president, and then later as the 3rd President of Excelsior College. Prior to that he was executive vice president of the College. Prior to joining Excelsior College, Baldwin worked in State government as Executive Deputy Secretary of State, and as chief of staff and acting deputy commissioner for higher education in the New York State Education Department. Baldwin also was the CEO and district superintendent for Questar III BOCES.

Carrianna C. Eurillo was appointed the Campus President of Mildred Elley in 2012. The school, owned by the Empire Education Corporation, is where Eurillo had previously served as the Director of Paralegal Studies. After being appointed campus president, in 2014 she became the Regional Director of Operations. Prior to joining Empire Education Corporation, Eurillo was in private practice, which she continued to do throughout her tenure, focusing on trusts and estates. She has returned to the full-time practice of law at Coughlin & Gerhart LLP.


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