UVA Law Professor Named Dean of Harvard Education School


Jim Ryan, a University of Virginia law professor, on Monday was named dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

June 10, 2013

University of Virginia law professor James E. Ryan, a leading authority on law and education, has been named dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, one of the nation's top education schools.

Ryan, a 1992 graduate of Virginia Law, teaches law and education, constitutional law, land use law and local government law. He was an instructor in the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and helped establish and was director of the Law School's Program in Law and Public Service. Ryan also served on the U.S. Department of Education's Equity and Excellence Commission, a group tasked with examining how to make public education both excellent and equitable.

The chance to lead Harvard's Ed School, Ryan said, was not something he ever planned or expected, but is an exciting opportunity given his passion for education.

"I was attracted to it because I have been writing and teaching about law and education for 15 years, and I'm intensely interested in issues of educational opportunity," Ryan said. "This seems like an opportunity to have a more direct and broader impact on education policy and practice. It's also, in some respects, a continuation of my interest in public service, which intersects with my deep interest in education."

"Jim Ryan is one of our most gifted teachers, researchers and administrators," said Law School Dean Paul G. Mahoney. "Harvard is getting an outstanding dean. His departure is a great loss for the Law School but it is a source of great pride that a Virginia graduate and professor has taken this high-profile post."

In a news release, Harvard President Drew Faust called Ryan an "outstanding scholar, teacher, and academic leader with a deep passion for improving education and for enhancing the interplay of scholarship, practice, and policy."

Ryan has written extensively about law and educational opportunity, and has also authored or co-authored a number of articles on constitutional law and theory. He was a co-author of the 2011 textbook "Educational Policy and the Law" and was the author of the 2010 book "Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America."

Before joining the faculty in 1998, Ryan clerked for J. Clifford Wallace, then-chief judge of the 9th Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. He also worked for an arbitrator at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague and was a Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Law in Newark, N.J.

At the Law School, Ryan served as academic associate dean from 2005-09. In 2009, he founded the Program in Law and Public Service, which provides UVA law students with intensive training and mentoring to prepare them for careers in public service.

"I have enjoyed everything about this place. But I especially enjoyed working with [then-Dean] John Jeffries, and later Paul Mahoney, as well as with [Assistant Dean for Student Affairs] Martha Ballenger and [Assistant Dean for Academic Services and Registrar] Cary Bennett when I served for academic associate dean," he said. "I've also thoroughly enjoyed directing the Program in Law and Public Service and have been inspired by the students in that program — as well as others who are not in the program but are equally passionate about public service."

Jeffries said Ryan is an excellent choice to lead Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

"For a scholar of education law and policy, the deanship of the Harvard Ed School is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "Jim's appointment is great for him and for Harvard, and I think it will prove to be great for American public education."

Ryan said he will dearly miss UVA Law.

"I have loved teaching here," he said. "I've been privileged to spend time with fantastic, lively and incredibly talented students, and I've had the great joy of being part of a community of not simply colleagues but close friends. This has become my home, and my family's home, and leaving home is never easy. But as I always tell students who are interested in public service, you should follow your passion, even when it entails some risk and some sacrifice. I've been giving that advice for so long, I thought I should follow it myself."

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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