On the afternoon of April 23, during the last week of spring semester classes, the Law School community gathered to thank Lynda Butler for her service as interim dean. The event was lighthearted, featuring sincere accolades from faculty and administrators, cake and a jovial toast led by William & Mary President Taylor Reveley, and a photo of Butler from her William & Mary college yearbook displayed on the lobby's electronic message board.
Vice Dean Eric Kades began the occasion by noting that the strength of Butler's administrative skills were in evidence during the days and months following the unexpected and rapid changing of deans in February 2008. That the transition had little impact on the lives of people at the Law School, he said, was "a real tribute to Lynda."
He told the audience that for months following her appointment she had done double duty, as interim dean and vice dean. Even after he became vice dean, Kades said, she continued to perform some of her former responsibilities as he got up to speed. The Law School, he said, "owes Lynda a profound debt of gratitude for moving the Law School forward during that very difficult time."
"We are losing Lynda as our dean," he continued, "but on the credit side of the ledger we are regaining her as a full-time teacher and scholar and I have no doubt that the Law School will enjoy years and years of exemplary classroom teaching and distinguished research from Lynda who had proven her skills in those areas before she became dean."
Two senior administrators who began their duties in 2000 in tandem to Butler's appointment as vice dean added their kudos.
Associate Dean for Administration Liz Jackson lauded Butler as a "superb role model and teacher to your colleagues, both upstairs and downstairs."
"As interim dean you could have 'kept the chair warm,' but you chose not to do that. You chose to continue to tackle hard issues, continue the high expectations and standards set by President Reveley when he was our dean. . . . You continued also to set and to achieve goals and we think you have been quite remarkable."
Jackson's voice faltered as she praised Butler and she joked, "I am so glad you are just going upstairs. I'm not crying because this is some kind of memorial service."
Chief Financial Officer Teri Lorincz began her comments on a personal note and said that Butler had been an advocate for her, providing calm and steady guidance when there were difficult administrative issues to address. Butler, she said, had made her goals clear as interim dean from the outset, "to turn the Law School over [to the new dean] in the best possible condition that she could. She wasn't willing . . . to coast through the year . . . She made it her goal to turn it over in the best possible condition and I think she has been successful."
President Reveley told the story of springing the news on Butler that she would be occupying the dean's office. Soon after he agreed to serve as William & Mary's interim president, he said, the unwitting vice dean came to his office for what usually would have been a routine meeting. He recalled telling her that he had "an opportunity for you, the opportunity of a lifetime. . . . You're the dean."
Butler's role as his vice dean for eight years, he said, was much like that of a provost to a president. "I had steely confidence," he said, "that Lynda could pick up the job [of dean] and do it from the get -go. . . . We are very proud of you Lynda. You have done a splendid job and the Law School is very much in your debt. I am very much in your debt as is the College."
Cutler Professor Jayne Barnard spoke on behalf of the faculty. She expressed her amazement that the spring 2009 semester concluded Butler's thirtieth year on the faculty, "thirty years of teaching, thirty years of scholarship, thirty years of service and governance and leadership."
Barnard expressed the faculty's thanks to Butler for her eight years as vice dean, noting that "she transmogrified so quickly from being vice dean to interim dean that the faculty never really got a chance to thank her for eight incredible years of a very tough job." She told the gathering that the faculty recently "evicted" Butler from a faculty meeting in order to pass a resolution in her honor. She said she wouldn't read the entirety of the resolution, as it was long and recounted Butler's numerous contributions to the Law School and College. But, she wanted to read its conclusion, because the faculty, she said, "believe it so wholeheartedly:
Whereas Lynda Butler has served with loyalty, passion and focus in the very tough job of interim dean,
Whereas she has consistently worked to maintain the forward progress of this law school and the College,
Whereas she has created opportunities for many of her colleagues to grow and achieve their professional goals, often at the expense of her own self interest,
Now therefore let it be resolved that the faculty of the College of William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law express their profound appreciation for Dean Butler's myriad contributions to their careers and to the continuing achievements of the Law School.
President Reveley concluded the event by leading the toast. Raising his glass, he said: "A cheer for our retiring dean, the famous Butler!"