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January 22, 2019

Danielle Conway to leave Maine Law for new post in Pennsylvania

Courtesy / University of Maine School of Law
Courtesy / University of Maine School of Law
Danielle Conway is leaving her post as dean of the University of Maine School of Law after four years to become dean of Penn State's Dickinson Law.

About Dickinson Law

Name: Penn State's Dickinson Law is the oldest law school in Pennsylvania. It merged with Pennsylvania State University in 1997, expanding its reputation, network and joint degree programs.

Location: Carlisle, Pa.

Founded: 1834

Number of students: 211

Source: Dickinson Law

Danielle Conway is leaving her post as dean of the University of Maine School of Law after four years to become dean of Penn State's Dickinson Law.

"This was one of the more difficult decisions in life," she told Mainebiz by phone Tuesday morning, "but it was the right one."

Conway, 50, is scheduled to start her new job on July 1, four years after becoming Maine Law's first African American dean in 2015. Dickinson Law is in Carlisle, Pa., one of Penn State's two separately accredited law schools jointly known as The Dickinson Schools of Law.

Conway has made her mark in Maine on many fronts, from promoting access to justice in rural areas through the Rural Lawyer Project to opening doors for underrepresented students through a summer immersion program known as PLUS (PreLaw Undergraduate Scholars). She was honored as a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in August 2017.

Now in its fourth year, PLUS will no longer rely on institutional funding from the Law School Admission Council but be funded from community donations.

"I'm really proud of that," Conway said, adding that this summer's group will be capped at 15 students to give greater attention to participants. Conway said she'll stay at Maine Law for the first week of PLUS in early June before embarking on her next life chapter.

She was named Dickinson Law's new dean after a national search, and says she was attracted in part by school's small size.

"They have the same demographic in terms of community and it sits in a very small town surrounded by a rural area, so it gives me a legitimate base to do the kind of social justice work I've been doing with the programs here," she said.

She also noted a No. 59 national ranking "is an amazing accomplishment for a very small school" and added that "they have the right kind of support and investment that a law school needs to be successful."

Interim dean to be named in a few weeks

Maine Law expects to name an interim dean in a few weeks to start in July as it launches a national search for Conway's successor.

"Maine has been truly fortunate to have had Dean Conway leading our state's law school over the past four years, guiding an extraordinary faculty and launching several innovative initiatives that will endure long after her departure," Glenn Cummings, president of the University of Southern Maine, said in Tuesday's announcement. "I am especially grateful for her work to strengthen the relationship between Maine Law and USM, her introduction of a program that enables USM and other students to enter law school after their junior year, and her great success in bringing underrepresented populations into the Law School and the legal profession."

He added that the school is also fortunate that Conway will stay for the next several months to ensure a smooth transition.

Conway told Mainebiz that while she won't have any say in that process, she does hope whoever succeeds her will build on what she's accomplished. "I've started a nice template," she said. "That's going to be my gift to the next person. They're not going to have to be dreaming up what they're going to do."

Asked what she'll miss the most, Conway said it would be the personal relationships she's been able to forge here, and connecting with people representing institutions that would not normally intersect with the law school — along with innovative programming that's come out of those interactions.

She says she will also miss traveling to Presque Isle, "some of the most meditative drives that I have had," and the honest conversations with people there. She will also miss her beautiful house that was redone from top to bottom, "and all of these beautiful people in this building," at Maine Law.

Conway, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, said that after the move she'll be two hours by train from her mother.

'Tremendous passion, energy and vision'

In the greater Portland community, Conway has served as a trustee at the Portland Museum of Art and on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Greater Portland.

She will be missed by many, both inside and outside legal circles.

"Danielle brought a tremendous passion, energy and vision to her role and redefined the kind of leader a law school dean could be," Patrick Scully, CEO of Bernstein Shur, said in an email to Mainebiz. "She advocated tirelessly for the importance of Maine's only law school to our state and the need to support it financially. All those who care about Maine Law will miss her deeply."

And Quincy Hentzel, president and CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said she will miss Conway's voice as part of her organization's leadership.

"Dean Conway has not only been an incredible asset to the law school but to the community at large," Hentzel said. "She has made her mark on our region, and her collaborative leadership style and passion for the community in which she lives and works will be dearly missed. She has a way of bringing people and ideas together for the betterment of all, which we do not see enough of in today's current environment."

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