Vermont Law School Names New President

  • Thomas J. P. McHenry

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2017 3:43:51 PM
Modified: 2/14/2017 12:14:02 PM

By Rob Wolfe

Valley News Staff Writer

South Royalton — Vermont Law School has named an environmental lawyer who is now in private practice in Los Angeles as its next president and dean.

Thomas J.P. McHenry, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a global law firm with more than 1,000 attorneys and offices around the world, will replace Marc Mihaly, who has served as president and dean since 2012, this summer.

In addition to negotiating cases with such prominent groups as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, McHenry, who is 61, has provided advice on environmental law abroad and served as a teacher in VLS’s summer session since 2013.

In a telephone interview on Monday, McHenry quoted from the school’s strategic plan, which calls for “developing a generation of leaders” in environmental law, when asked about his vision for the future of VLS.

“That’s of course general,” McHenry said, “but as I told the board (of trustees) when I met with them Saturday, I don’t think there’s any greater honor than teaching students about how they can be more effective agents for change and progress in our world ... and VLS has a long tradition of doing that.”

McHenry came to VLS to teach in the summer session by invitation of VLS professor John Echeverria, whom he had met years earlier in school.

According to a biography on his law firm’s website, McHenry received his J.D. from New York University Law School in 1983, a Master’s from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1980, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale College in 1977.

After completing his studies, he worked as a law clerk to a federal judge of the Eastern District of California from 1984 to 1986.

Not long afterward, he took a job at Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, Calif., where he taught conservation history and environmental law and policy to undergraduates, he said in Monday’s interview.

In addition to that work, which he has pursued for 26 years, McHenry ran a field program to introduce students to renewable energy projects in the Mojave Desert.

At VLS, McHenry said, he has been teaching environmental business transactions, or the study of environmental liabilities in business transactions, which happens to be his primary business.

With Echeverria, McHenry also once brought VLS students to France to learn about environmental law in that country, he said.

Despite the budgetary headwinds that VLS has faced in recent years, especially in response to a decline in enrollment, McHenry said that his impression from afar was that the school had “turned a corner” in its finances.

VLS enrolled 383 full-time J.D. students for the 2016-17 academic year, according to its annual report to the American Bar Association.

“Marc’s done an absolutely terrific job in that regard,” with support from the school’s staff, McHenry said. “The school has tightened its belt in a very effective way.”

McHenry said he had some familiarity with New England, having grown up in Massachusetts and visited Vermont for cross-country skiing races.

“What attracted me was the job and the chance to work with the students and the faculty and staff and develop innovative programs,” he said. “The fact that it’s in rural Vermont is just an added attraction.

“It’s a familiar and lovely landscape, and it’s certainly going to be a change but an exciting one,” he added.

Mihaly announced last spring that he planned to step down as president and dean in summer 2017. He plans to continue to teach.

“I’ve known Tom for some time, and am certain that he will be an active and devoted asset to the school, continuing its spirit of innovation and its devotion to training leaders to make the world more sustainable and just,” Mihaly said in a news release from the school Monday afternoon. “Tom and I will work together in the coming months to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at or at 603-727-3242.

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