On September 23, Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law Blake D. Morant was honored for his five years of service as the 19th Dean of the George Washington University Law School. University leaders, distinguished alumni, faculty, staff, and students celebrated the impact he left on GW Law and legal education as a whole.
GW President Dr. Thomas J. LeBlanc, GW Law Interim Dean, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, and Professor of Law Christopher A. Bracey, and Louis Harkey Mayo Research Professor of Law Laird C. Kirkpatrick gave remarks, as well as Bobby R. Burchfield, JD '79, Weston D. Burnett, JD '75, LLM '83, Mike P. Michel, JD '15, and Helen T. Clemens, JD '15.
Ms. Clemens, who was on the Dean's Search Committee that ultimately chose Professor Morant, said students were impressed with his commitment to engaging with them.
"Personally, I am most grateful for his stewardship of our community—for not only understanding who we are, but embracing and protecting that community, never sacrificing scholastic greatness in the process," Ms. Clemens said. "That, truly, is what makes GW the best place in the country to study law."
Professor Morant was named Dean of the law school in 2014, leading the institution during a time of tumultuous change in American legal education. Despite a period of declining law school applications nationally and reduced job opportunities for law school graduates, GW Law experienced a rise in applications and recently attracted the second-highest number of applicants in the nation.
"The George Washington University Law School is a special part of our university, and Dean Morant has been a special and distinguished part of our university as well," Dr. LeBlanc said. "Thank you for your decency, for your thoughtfulness, for your leadership, for your civility. Thank you for your service to the George Washington University Law School."
During his deanship, Professor Morant worked to enhance GW Law programs, including the successful launch of the George Washington in New York program and the enrichment of the Foundations of Practice program. The law school garnered success in the national rankings while meeting budgetary challenges with Professor Morant also enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts.
His passion for community building and civility combined with a strong commitment to the future of legal education has made a lasting impact on GW Law, Dean Bracey said.
"Throughout his five years at the helm of GW Law, Blake galvanized this community with his warm and his engaging leadership style, his passion for legal education, and his commitment to personally connecting with law constituents on campus and around the globe," Dean Bracey said. "He is respected throughout the legal academy. Blake concurrently shared his talents with us and on the national stage."
Dean Bracey said Professor Morant simultaneously focused his attention on ensuring the law school's continued upward trajectory, paving the way for numerous curricular innovations.
"This semester, we rolled out the largest of those innovations: the most significant reform of our first-year curriculum in more than a generation. Key advancements include the launch of a groundbreaking, six-credit course for 1Ls titled Fundamentals of Lawyering, as well as a new course on Legislation and Regulation that both accents and leverages our location in the nation’s capital. Both new courses focus on providing our students with the professional skills that employers value most, positioning them for success both nationally and globally."
Bobby R. Burchfield, a long-time friend of Professor Morant and GW Law alumnus, complimented his friend on his ability to handle the more difficult aspects of the job while also fostering alumni engagement and securing endowed scholarships and fellowships.
"He traveled the country and the globe to advance GW Law’s interests. In the final year of the capital campaign, he and his team raised $11.7 million for the law school," Mr. Burchfield said. "During his tenure, the law school endowed the Alexander Hamilton Law Professorship, the Mermelstein Law Faculty Endowment, the Senior Academic Dean, the Senior Administrative Dean, and the Senior Associate Dean for International and Comparative Law. In addition, the number of endowed scholarships and fellowships grew from 96 to 143."
Professor Morant served as president of the Association of American Law Schools in 2015, was a founding member of the American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Education, and is President Emeritus of the Association of American Law Schools Fellows.
A national figure in American legal education, he has been recognized by National Jurist magazine as one of the most influential people in legal education and was named Law Dean of Year in 2010 by Equal Justice Works.
His commentary on contemporary issues of policy and law are featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post, and The Atlantic magazine. Professor Morant was most recently recognized for his work in the academy by the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia.