Distinguished legal scholar named Mercer Law School dean

MACON — Mercer University President William D. Underwood today announced the appointment of legal scholar Gary J. Simson, the Joseph C. Hostetler-Baker and Hostetler Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University, as dean of the Walter F. George School of Law. The appointment is effective July 1.

Simson will also hold the endowed Macon Chair of Law and succeeds Daisy Hurst Floyd, who has served as dean of Mercer’s Law School since 2004. She announced last year her intention to return to full-time teaching as University Professor of Law and Ethical Formation. In her new position, she will lead the University in collaborations between undergraduate and professional education to prepare students for lives of purpose and responsibility.

Simson, who was dean of Case Western Reserve’s Law School from 2006 through 2008, served as professor of law for many years at Cornell Law School. From 1997-2004 he was associate dean for faculty development and then associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell. A Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude graduate of Yale College, Simson earned his J.D. from Yale Law School and was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

“Gary Simson is among the most respected leaders in legal education,” President Underwood said. “He is an outstanding teacher, an excellent listener, and a wise and thoughtful decisionmaker. He is also among the most nationally prominent scholars in his field and will be a tremendous leader for the School of Law.”

After graduating from Yale Law School in 1974, Simson clerked for Judge J. Joseph Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He joined the University of Texas law faculty in 1975 as assistant professor of law and was promoted to professor of law in 1977. In 1980 he became professor of law at Cornell. He is admitted to the Bar in Connecticut and New York.

“Professor Simson will be an outstanding addition to the leadership of the Walter F. George School of Law. He brings a high level of scholarship to the position of dean, and he is an accomplished leader both in the academic and legal communities,” said Mercer Provost Dr. Wallace L. Daniel. “His energy, national prominence, strong commitment to legal education, and leadership skills are outstanding qualities, and he will build on the solid foundation that his predecessors have created.

“I want to express gratitude to members of the search committee, chaired by Professor James Fleissner, for their superb work on behalf of the Walter F. George School of Law and Mercer University,” Dr. Daniel said.

“The Dean Search Committee identified many strong candidates, but the candidacy of Gary Simson presented a singular opportunity to enhance the excellence of the law school on several fronts,” Fleissner said. “Gary Simson is a nationally respected scholar and an outstanding teacher who brings a decade of experience in law school administration and a track record demonstrating a strong commitment to ethics, professionalism, and public service. The committee was very impressed with Gary’s wide circle of devoted friends among the most accomplished levels of academia, law practice, and the judiciary. The committee is delighted with President Underwood's appointment of Gary Simson as dean.”

Simson has taught, and written on, constitutional law, conflict of laws, and freedom of religion. He is the author of numerous articles in those fields, as well as a leading conflict of laws casebook now in its fourth edition.

“Gary Simson brings to the Mercer deanship long and successful experience as a scholar, teacher, and administrator,” said Russell K. Osgood, president of Grinnell College and former dean of Cornell Law School. “He is committed to building on the strengths of Mercer and contributing to the life of the law.”

“I am honored and excited to be asked to lead this law school whose faculty and innovative curriculum I have long admired,” Simson said. “Dean Floyd will be a hard act to follow, but I look forward to working with the president, provost, and all members of the law school community to help the law school achieve even greater success.”

“I have known Gary Simson from his days as a student at Yale Law School,” said Guido Calabresi, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale and senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. “He is a superb scholar and teacher. He also, and wonderfully, combines those skills with extraordinarily good administrative abilities. Most important, he is a truly fine human being. He’ll be a great dean at Mercer.”   

Simson’s wife, Rosalind Simson, will join the Mercer faculty as associate professor and will be based in the College of Liberal Arts. After earning a B.A. summa cum laude and Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale, she taught for many years at Hobart & William Smith Colleges and most recently at Case Western Reserve. The Simsons have two children: Jennie Anne, who will graduate from high school next month; and Nathaniel, a high school physics teacher in Ithaca, N.Y.