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March 2, 2023

Bates College picks Minnesota Law dean as next president

Caroline Yang for Bates College Garry W. Jenkins has led Minnesota Law School since 2016.

Bates College has tapped the dean of the University of Minnesota Law School as its next president.

Garry W. Jenkins will succeed Clayton Spencer, who has served as Bates’ president since July 2012 and will step down in June. Her announcement, in June 2022, gave the college nearly a year to find a successor.

Jenkins will start on July 1. He will be Bates’ ninth president since its 1855 founding and its first Black leader.

Jenkins' election as president of Bates took place during a special trustee meeting Feb. 27.

“We are at a pivotal moment for American society and higher education,” Jenkins said in a story posted on the Bates website. “The world urgently needs leaders who have been challenged, developed, and nurtured by Bates and a liberal arts education. I am excited about what our community will accomplish together in the years ahead.”

During Jenkins’ tenure as dean, the University of Minnesota Law School's endowment nearly doubled. In 2021, he conducted a record-setting fundraising campaign at the University of Minnesota Law School that raised more than $106 million, which surpassed its goal of $80 million.

The funds raised went towards scholarships, professorships and faculty research, student support and fellowships, clinical programs and experiential learning, leadership programming, and the annual fund.

Jenkins has continued to teach while serving as dean of the law school. In fall 2020, he co-taught a course titled “George Floyd’s Minneapolis: Past, Present, and Moving Forward,” which examined the historical, socio-political, and legal contexts and implications of the murder of George Floyd — which happened less than 4 miles from the University of Minnesota Law School.

According to a prepared release, Jenkins has made nearly two dozen presentations to national professional organizations and other groups over the last five years, addressing topics that included leadership development for lawyers; anti-racism and racial justice in law school curricula; and hate speech and the First Amendment on college campuses.

Prior to joining Minnesota Law School, Jenkins was a professor of law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law for 12 years, including eight years as associate dean for academic affairs. During his time at Mortiz, he co-founded and directed the innovative Program on Law and Leadership, which was the first such program at a U.S. law school.

Jenkins was a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Pittsburgh and an attorney with the New York City-based law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Before entering higher education, he was CEO and general counsel of the Goldman Sachs Foundation.

Jenkins earned a Bachelor of Arts from Haverford College in 1992, majoring in political science. He earned a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a juris doctor from the Harvard Law School. 

He earned a Diversity and Inclusion Award from the publication Minnesota Lawyer in 2022, was elected to the American Law Institute in 2019, and is a fellow of the American Bar Association. He was named to the Lawyers of Color “Power List” in 2020 and 2023.

Spencer's legacy

Spencer became president of Bates after holding several leadership positions at Harvard University.

During her time at Bates, Spencer led a $300 million capital campaign looking toward expansion and upgrades that would raise the level of the school and help attract top-level students. The fundraising surpassed an initial $300 million goal and the school raised more than $336 million. 

Under Spencer's leadership, over the past few years Bates expanded its financial aid for students, expanded campus facilities, and launched new initiatives in a number of academic areas, including digital and computational studies. 

woman with short blonde hair and glasses standing in front of window
File Photo / Tim Greenway
Clayton Spencer

"When I step down on June 30, 2023, I will have had the profound honor of serving the college in this role for 11 years. I have loved my time at Bates,” she wrote in a letter to the college community on June 23, 2022. “I am not at all sure what this next chapter will bring for me, but I am excited to explore new interests and ways of being.”

In a profile when she was named a 2018 Mainebiz Woman to Watch, she said, "you have to find purposeful work, something to keep you motivated. You have to make meaning out of life. Happiness is a byproduct of meaning.”

Spencer earned a bachelor's degree in theology from Oxford University in 1979, and a master of arts degree in religion from Harvard in 1982. She earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 1985.

She clerked in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, then practiced law at the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray. She worked for former U.S. Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy from 1993 to 1997 and served as the chief education counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

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