The history-making dean’s eight dynamic years

During his tenure, Penn Carey Law School Dean Ted Ruger closed the largest gift ever to a law school, revitalized the faculty and the curriculum, and handled the pandemic masterfully.

Spring 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is raging, shuttering schools all over the country, including the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. Confronted with the lost learning opportunity for students, Dean Ted Ruger rolled up his sleeves and went to work, meeting virtually each morning during the summer of 2020 with his leadership team to devise a plan to bring students back to campus.

Penn Carey Law School Dean standing in a hallway of the law school building
Ted Ruger, outgoing dean of Penn Carey Law (Image: Courtesy of Penn Carey Law)

That fall, undeterred by the international crisis, Penn Carey Law was one of only two graduate schools at Penn to open its doors to students, holding in-person classes without a hitch—or an outbreak of COVID.

“That took both guts and collaboration,” said Deputy Dean and William A. Schnader Professor of Law Dave Hoffman. “Ted facilitates group decision-making and backs up those decisions.”

Pandemic leadership

As Ruger completes his eight-year tenure as dean at the end of June, his deft handling of the pandemic stands out. During the spring of 2020, he collaborated with faculty and staff leaders and acted with systematic precision to make students whole and simulate the on-campus experience as much as possible, and then reopened in the fall with confidence guided by strategic thinking.

When the crisis halted in-person classes, Ruger made a series of crucial decisions in consultation with his team. Moving with incredible dispatch, faculty and staff took just one week to put together a plan to provide a world-class, virtual legal education.

In addition, the Law School shipped belongings home to hundreds of students, found temporary housing in Philadelphia for students who could not travel, provided free meals from local restaurants, and converted more than 190 courses to an online format with scanned course materials in just days.

Penn Carey Law followed that with a commitment to freeze tuition for the entire upcoming academic year—one of the few law schools to do so—while also committing to a planned double-digit percentage increase in financial aid in the immediate future.

Perry Golkin, a 1974 graduate of the Wharton School (both bachelor’s and master’s degrees) and a 1978 graduate of the Penn Carey Law School, who is former chair of the Penn Carey Law Board of Advisors and adjunct professor of law, says Ruger moved the Law School forward despite the headwinds of the pandemic. “I can’t think of any metric where we didn’t make progress,” he says.

As a result, he says, the Law School “is perfectly positioned for the future.”

“Are we positioned to train law students in the future? Are we positioned to recruit more faculty? Are we positioned to increase financial aid? We’re perfectly positioned to continue despite what I consider a pretty turbulent time.”

This story is by Larry Teitelbaum. Read more at The Journal.