Dean's Message on the Board of Visitors' Resolution on Retirement of Lynda L. Butler

  • Professor Lynda L. Butler
    Professor Lynda L. Butler  Dean Spencer's message noted that the William & Mary Board of Visitors' resolution captured the enormous scope and impact of Professor Lynda L. Butler's career as a teacher, scholar, leader and trailblazer.  
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March 1, 2021

Dear colleagues and students,

During last week’s meeting of the Board of Visitors, the Board acknowledged the retirement of Lynda L. Butler and approved her designation as Chancellor Profession of Law, Emerita.

The Board’s resolution, copied below, captures the enormous scope and impact of Lynda’s career as a teacher, scholar, leader and trailblazer. She had the distinction of being among the first women to receive tenure on the law faculty and was the first woman to lead the Law School. As the resolution notes: “Her devotion to William & Mary is unmatched, and her decades of faithful service and leadership have made the Law School and William & Mary immeasurably better.”

Congratulations to Lynda on this recognition.

Dean A. Benjamin Spencer


Retirement of Lynda L. Butler

An undergraduate alumna of William & Mary, Lynda L. Butler joined the Law School’s faculty in 1979. She was one of the Law School’s first women to receive tenure, and later was named a Chancellor Professor and served as interim dean. Over her tenure at the Law School, she has distinguished herself through her scholarship and teaching. Her devotion to William & Mary is unmatched, and her decades of faithful service and leadership have made the Law School and William & Mary immeasurably better.

Professor Butler has held almost every leadership position of significance at the Law School. In 2008, after she had served eight years as vice dean, fate called then-dean of the Law School Taylor Reveley to the interim presidency of the university, leaving the Law School immediately in need of a new leader. Reveley turned to Professor Butler and asked her to take on the deanship on an interim basis; she was the obvious and perfect choice. Although she had been ready to leave administration and return full-time to teaching and scholarship, she did not hesitate to answer the call, and as a result she made history as the first woman to lead the School. Professor Butler did not just keep the seat warm during the year-plus of her deanship. Instead, she continued with new initiatives and ideas, including convening the first faculty retreat to help inform the School’s priorities. In these leadership positions, as well as other roles such as chairing countless committees, Professor Butler has always acted with the highest integrity, putting the interests of the institution above her own, choosing the right way over the easy way

In addition to her many roles at the Law School, Professor Butler has served the university with distinction. The high point was her service as vice president, and then president of the Faculty Assembly, where she led the effort to create and secure Board of Visitors approval of the Faculty Handbook. For more than a decade, she has been the co-chair of the university’s Committee on Sustainability. Professor Butler has also served as a member of the William & Mary Design Review Board and Commencement Policy Committee. She has been chosen for these and other roles not just because of her work ethic and dedication – though they are unmatched – but because of her sound judgment, fairmindedness and ability to engender confidence.

Professor Butler has distinguished herself through decades of scholarship, primarily in the areas of property and environmental law. She has authored important articles in her fields and a book on Virginia coastal and tidal law. For many years she edited the journal of the state bar’s Real Property Section. Professor Butler has produced a burst of novel scholarship in the last several years preceding her retirement. One of her great scholarly achievements, one that we hope will continue to flourish long after her retirement, is William & Mary’s Property Rights Project. Its signature event, the annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference, annually brings together academics, judges, and lawyers to discuss cutting-edge issues in property law. The conference’s high profile has significantly enhanced the Law School’s reputation across the nation and indeed the world. The conference has also provided a valuable experience for William & Mary’s students, who get to network with potential employers and edit a bound volume of the conference proceedings, a volume for which Professor Butler serves as editor.

Professor Butler has made a lasting mark on the profession through her four decades of teaching and mentoring. Since her arrival on campus, she has been a gifted and passionate educator. From the beginning, students had great respect and affection for her, often making her the subject of “Libel Night” in early years, a tribute she fondly remembers with amusement. Teaching mostly in the area of property and the environment, her courses have ranged from the large required 1L Property course to, in recent years, a seminar on Climate Change. She brings the abstractions of property law to life with modern examples. She has mentored countless students – future public servants, law firm partners, and law school deans – and remains in touch with students as their careers develop, cementing their lasting friendship to the institution. Her decades of outstanding teaching earned her the high honor of the 2019 Thomas A. Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching. 

In sum, Lynda Butler has led an exemplary career and has made everyone and everything around her better.

BE IT RESOLVED, That the Board of Visitors acknowledges the retirement of Lynda L. Butler; expresses its deep appreciation for the many contributions she has made to the William & Mary Law School and William & Mary during her decades of devoted service; and approves a change in status from Chancellor Professor of Law to Chancellor Professor of Law, Emerita.

 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution be spread upon the minutes of the Board and a copy of the same be delivered to Professor Butler with best wishes from a grateful Board for her years of dedicated service to William & Mary.