South Royalton — Marc Mihaly, who has served as president and dean of Vermont Law School since 2012, plans to step down next year.
Mihaly is scheduled to leave office after the 2016-17 academic year, though he will remain on the faculty afterward.
“I just decided that I really wanted to spend more time with my family,” Mihaly, who is nearing 70, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. His first grandchild was born a few months ago.
Mihaly arrived at VLS in 2004 and soon rose to lead the school’s Environmental Law Center.
“Many in our community admire his leadership and innovative thinking,” VLS spokeswoman Maryellen Apelquist said.
In 2012, Mihaly took over for retiring president and dean Jeff Shields, who had held the post for eight years.
He had a strong headwind to contend with: At the time, VLS’s first-year student enrollment was at a five-year low.
In the Wednesday interview, Mihaly expressed pride in VLS’s performance after the 2008 recession, which he said had been “tough for law schools,” and in its growth as a regional institution.
“We’ve really deepened our roots in Vermont and New Hampshire,” he said, “and I’m really proud of that.”
Mihaly’s colleagues on Wednesday credited him for shepherding the institution through an era of belt-tightening that saw law-school enrollments decline nationwide.
“Marc has steered VLS through a very difficult period in its history, and I don’t think he’ll get enough credit for his part in that,” Donald Kreis, an adjunct professor who teaches in the school’s online program, said.
“Marc basically had to downsize VLS in a thoughtful way without compromising very much of the law school’s mission,” Kreis said, “and that was a very tricky thing to do, and he dealt with it thoughtfully.”
Kreis also cited Mihaly’s leadership during the summer of 2014, when popular professor Cheryl Hanna took her own life.
Another member of the VLS leadership team is leaving her position this year: Jackie Gardina, vice dean for faculty and a professor of law, plans to take a job in California at the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law, according to Apelquist.
“This is a professionally and personally exciting opportunity for Dean Gardina,” Apelquist said in an email. “We’re proud of her and wish her well.”
Gardina could not be reached for comment. Her faculty page lists her specialties as civil procedure, administrative law, bankruptcy and sexual orientation and gender identity issues; it also mentions numerous honors for teaching, including six VLS Student Bar Association Faculty Service Member Awards.
The departures of Mihaly and Gardina as administrators will “present a real challenge to VLS,” Kreis said, “because it’s losing both of its key leaders, almost at the same time.”
Mihaly said the search process for his successor likely will begin over the summer and involve representatives from the VLS board of directors, faculty, staff and student body.
Rob Wolfe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 603-727-3242.