Vermont Law School names new president

  • Rodney A. Smolla (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/14/2022 3:44:00 PM
Modified: 4/15/2022 10:52:21 AM

SOUTH ROYALTON — A longtime law professor and higher education administrator will be the next president of Vermont Law School.

The state’s only law school announced Thursday that Rodney A. Smolla will start work on July 1 and that the school’s board of trustees will unveil more leadership changes later this summer, in line with a new strategic plan.

Glenn Berger, chairman of the law school’s board of trustees, called Smolla “the right person at the right time for Vermont Law School,” in a news release Thursday, citing Smolla’s mix of law school, administrative, scholarly and practical experience.

The law school hired Smolla only as president and in Thursday’s announcement the board of trustees said it has split the president and dean positions into two, which will allow the president to concentrate “on the higher level strategies and outside and internal relationships that are important to the future of the school, and implementation of the strategic plan itself,” the news release says.

The strategic plan is intended to build on the law school’s highly regarded environmental program and first-of-its-kind restorative justice program, in hopes of expanding the school’s enrollment and reputation.

Smolla will take over from Beth McCormack, who has served as interim president and dean of VLS since January 2021 and is the first woman to lead the law school. McCormack served a little over a year after the abrupt departure of Thomas McHenry, who’d announced he planned to leave at the end of his three-year term, in June 2021, but departed six months early.

Since 2015, Smolla has served as dean and professor of law at Delaware Law School of Widener University since 2015. Prior to that, he served as president of Furman University, in Greenville, S.C., and as dean of the law schools at Washington and Lee University and University of Richmond, both in Virginia. He also has been a faculty member of the law schools at William & Mary, DePaul, University of Illinois and University of Arkansas and a visiting professor at multiple other schools.

In his legal practice and scholarship, Smolla has specialized in constitutional law, civil rights, freedom of speech and mass media law. He is a graduate of Yale University and earned his law degree from Duke University.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

Correction: Glenn Berger, chairman of the Vermont Law School board of trustees, called Rodney A. Smolla “the right person at the right time for Vermont Law School,” in a news release Thursday. A previous version of this story misquoted him.

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