Paul R. Verkuil, the twenty-fifth president of the College of William & Mary and a member of the William & Mary Class of 1961, was honored in March as the Law School's 2008 Carter O. Lowance Fellow. During his fellowship, Verkuil taught a course on military contracts and public responsibility and met with numerous students, including members of the Students for Innocence Project and the student division of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law. Verkuil's career was celebrated at a dinner in his honor in the Wren's Great Hall on March 12.
In her dinner remarks, Law School Dean Lynda Butler said that the fellowship's namesake, Carter O. Lowance, had set a gold standard in public service. She noted that former College President Timothy Sullivan had called Lowance "a paragon of the public servant." Lowance served as chief of staff to six Virginia governors and as the College's executive vice president. Butler also quoted two-time Virginia Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr., who said of Lowance, "no one man has done more to preserve the character and integrity of Virginia's government."
Citing the French philosopher Albert Camus's advocacy of "a politics of moral engagement," Butler told the assembled that Verkuil had served the common good as "a leader in the realm of public intellectualism." He is, she said, "the perfect example of the intellectual who has used his intellect to lead, to promote character and integrity in academia, in private enterprise, in the courts, and in the public policy arena."
Verkuil began his academic career at the University of North Carolina Law School and later served as dean of Tulane Law School (1978-1985), president of the College of William & Mary (1985-1992), and dean of the Cardozo Law School (1997-2001). From 1992 to1995, he was president and CEO of the American Automobile Association. He currently is a professor at Cardozo and counsel at Boies, Schiller & Flexner in New York City.
Butler cited examples of the wide-ranging legacy of Verkuil's service as a "public intellectual." As an administrative law scholar, he had "forged his own brand of moral engagement," effectively merging "the rule of law with the discipline of public policy to tackle complicated and weighty social problems." As an academic leader, he served three institutions with great distinction. During his presidency at William & Mary, for example, the College created the Faculty Assembly, established doctoral programs in American Studies and Applied Science, and launched the $150 million "Campaign for the Fourth Century." As an arbitrator, he has twice served as a special master. While at William & Mary, he was appointed a special master by the Fifth Circuit to recommend a plan to desegregate Louisiana's state colleges and universities. In 1994, he was appointed a special master by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving Ellis Island's sovereignty.
Before presenting Verkuil with a bronze and glass award commemorating his selection as a Lowance Fellow, Butler harkened back to June 1783 when Thomas Jefferson received an honorary degree from the College. The citation for the occasion, written by George Wythe, noted that in Jefferson "all the fine arts seem to foregather in one man."
She said that although no one could hope to match Wythe's eloquence or Jefferson's achievements, "many of the ways that a person can serve the public good - as a lawyer, author, professor, dean, president, business executive and arbitrator - foregather in this man, Paul R. Verkuil."