This spring marks the end of Donald Tobin’s eight-year tenure as dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Tobin joined the law school at time of great turmoil, both internally, as the 2008 recession led to significant declines in law school enrollment, and externally, as Baltimore confronted a legacy of overpolicing and racism that culminated in the death of Freddie Gray.
As Tobin told the Daily Record recently, his tenure at the law school was guided by two principles: being more involved in the Baltimore community while at the same time ensuring that the law school fulfilled its “mission to educate the next generation of great lawyers and leaders.”
In support of those principles, Tobin encouraged faculty to become more deeply involved in the city, an initiative which led to the development of a course to help students understand the context within which Freddie Gray’s death and the subsequent uprisings in the city occurred. He stressed the importance of interdisciplinary work and created bridges to other departments within the University of Maryland at Baltimore and at other institutions.
He was responsible for bringing in gifts that led to transformative social justice work in the law school, including a million-dollar gift to fund the Erin Levitas Initiative for Sexual Assault Prevention, which works to prevent peer-to-peer sexual harm among young people, and a $5 million gift to create the Chacón Center for Immigrant Justice, which provides direct representation in and engages in impact litigation on issues of asylum and the intersection of criminal and immigration law.
He introduced the Diversity and Inclusion Scholars Initiative, which increased diversity within the law school by offering financial and professional support to approximately ten academically excellent first year students. And he made time to teach in the law school’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, supervising students representing clients before the Internal Revenue Service, as well as helming courses in Law and Leadership and Legal Profession.
What’s more, he found time to connect meaningfully and on a regular basis with a wide array of alumni and to enhance their willingness to support his vision of a law school fully engaged not only with enrolled students but with the broader community as well.
And to be sure, fundraising may not top the list of any dean’s favorite tasks, but Tobin tackled that task as he did others, with enthusiasm and sincerity and a talent for securing robust financial support for the law school’s endowment, scholarships, and related needs. His success in that realm is undeniable.
Like other institutions, legal education confronted significant challenges with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tobin led the law school as it turned to online instruction — without missing a single day of class. The law school’s ability to quickly and nimbly adapt to the new realities of COVID owes much to Tobin’s leadership and to his ability to bring the law school community together.
Tobin is staying at the law school and will rejoin the faculty to teach tax law and other courses. We look forward to his continued leadership in the Maryland legal community.
Editorial Advisory Board member Arthur F. Fergenson did not participate in this opinion.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
Gary E. Bair
Andre M. Davis
Arthur F. Fergenson
Julie C. Janofsky
Ericka N. King
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
H. Mark Stichel
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.