Mark C. Alexander — a seasoned law school administrator, scholar and litigator — has been named the Arthur J. Kania Dean of the Charles Widger School of Law at Villanova University.
Alexander, 51, who is currently associate dean for academics at the Seton Hall University School of Law and a member of its faculty, now joins a growing number of African-Americans who have been appointed as law school deans in recent years.
He will begin his post on July 1.
An expert on the First Amendment, Alexander served as a senior adviser to President’s Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and even ran — unsuccessfully — for the New Jersey Senate in 2013.
But it’s his scholarship on issues ranging from constitutional to election law and the intersection of law and politics that caught the attention of administrators and the faculty at the law school located in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
“Mark Alexander brings tremendous academic and practical skills to his new role as dean,” said Villanova president, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue. “Our search centered on finding an individual who understands the changing landscape of the legal industry believes in the values of Villanova’s Augustinian Catholic tradition and has the breadth of experience to sustain and build upon the Law School’s forward momentum.”
As dean, Alexander will serve as chief administrator of the faculty and manage an annual budget of more than $24 million. He will replace John Yukio Gotanda, who was named president of Hawaii Pacific University in February.
“I’m really honored that the folks on the search committee, including the president and the provost, saw fit to have me lead the school,” said Alexander in an interview with Diverse. “I’m humbled by the trust that’s been placed in me.”
Alexander said that that the various skills he acquired in his previous political and academic jobs have seasoned him for the deanship.
“I’m very proud of my role as a teacher,” said Alexander, who was voted three times as professor of the year at Seton Hall. “I feel like I’ve done a lot of things in my professional life that have given me a broad set of skills that will help me in this new role.”
Alexander, who is the first African-American to lead Villanova’s law school, which was established in 1953, said that he’s encouraged by the steady incline of Black law school deans throughout the nation over the past decade.
“I’m glad that there has been a significant increase,” he said. “We all benefit from greater diversity.”
Alexander said that the first year of his tenure will consist of listening to the faculty and getting to know the student body. The current administration, he said, has “positioned me in a place,” where he can think more broadly about long-term strategic goals.
“As both an outstanding teaching and scholar, Mark understands student success and scholarly research,” said Villanova Provost Patrick Maggitti. “I am delighted that Mark will take over the helm, building upon our Law School’s strong tradition of excellence.”
Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.