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Black educators are breaking barriers in academic leadership. A. Benjamin Spencer has been named the new dean of William & Mary Law School, the institution reported.

The appointment is historic as it marks the first time in the Virginia-based school’s 241-year history that a Black person has been selected as dean. Spencer—whose expertise is in federal courts and civil procedure—currently serves as a professor of law at the University of Virginia. The Morehouse College alum holds a master’s degree in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics and is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Throughout the course of his career Spencer, who is a captain for the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps, has focused on the intersection of military law and federal civil litigation. He’s spearheaded legal education programs at institutions that include the University of Richmond School of Law and Washington and Lee University.

Spencer has earned several accolades for his work and has penned numerous articles and books that have been utilized as points of reference for professors and students. He works with several civic groups including the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the Girl Scouts Commonwealth Council of Virginia and the Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates. Spencer has also been a driving force behind diversity and inclusion initiatives which included the Black Law Students Association at UVA.

In his new role at the nation’s oldest law school, Spencer will be responsible for evolving the college’s legal program while staying true to its mission of educating and empowering citizen lawyers to serve their communities. “I am particularly enthusiastic about the university’s commitment to a whole-person, whole-university approach to learning and its commitment to understanding and meeting the most pressing needs of our time,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to building on that solid foundation and to make William & Mary law a preeminent law school that develops highly competent and engaged citizen lawyers who serve their clients and communities with distinction, integrity and passion.”

Spencer succeeds Davison M. Douglas and is slated to officially step into his new position on July 1.


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