Inaugural Harrison Professors Set National Standard
This issue of UVA Lawyer focuses on the bequest of David A. Harrison III ’41 and the creation of five new Harrison Professorships. As you know, David left us $34.8 million. He directed that the money be used to fund professorships and “otherwise to provide faculty support,” but he did not specify just how that should be done.
One strategy would be to spread the Harrison bequest among existing chairs, many of which are severely underfunded. To a limited extent, we have followed that approach. Specifically, we divided $4.8 million among the Law School’s three oldest (and poorest) chairs, the James Madison, James Monroe, and John B. Minor Professorships. The infusion of cash from the Harrison bequest will ensure that these historic chairs have a bright future, as well as a glorious past.
Our overriding aim, however, was to deploy the Harrison bequest in a way that would have maximum impact on our reputation and standing. Specifically, we wanted to signal that Virginia is prepared to compete with the nation’s best law schools for the nation’s best law teachers. Accordingly, we recommended—and the Board of Visitors created—five new positions, the David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professorships of Law, supported by an aggregate endowment of $30 million.
This level of funding is distinctive, not only at Virginia but across the nation. It broadcasts to the world our commitment not only to remain in the very first rank of American legal education but to challenge the nation’s leading private universities. In time, we hope that the phrase “Harrison Professor” will be recognized as the brand name of the nation’s foremost academic appointment in law.
Selection of individuals to become Harrison Professors is a matter of some difficulty. Consistent with the philosophy behind their creation, Harrison chairs will be reserved for senior teachers and scholars of national distinction. Fortunately, we have many more faculty members of that description than we could possibly recognize at this time. Additionally, we thought it wise to leave some positions vacant in the hope that we can use them to attract nationally renowned additions to our faculty.
Accordingly, we recommended that the Board of Visitors appoint Bob Scott, Glen Robinson, and Ted White as the inaugural Harrison Professors. All three stand at the pinnacle of their respective fields. All three have long records of accomplishment and distinction, including many years of service at Virginia. Their appointments will get the Harrison Professorships off to a good start.
In the pages that follow, you will see profiles of the three new Harrison Professors. Additionally, there are brief remembrances of David and Mary Harrison, the benefactors who gave us this extraordinary opportunity.