A Tribute to Don Welch

Don Welch

Don Welch, the law school's long-time Associate Dean for Administration, retires this summer after 35 years of service to Vanderbilt University, 28 of which he spent as the law school's administrative dean. Don served under four university chancellors and six law deans, including me. He provided a calm, even-tempered source of continuity and institutional memory to the law school's staff and faculty as well as a wealth of common sense that helped us make good decisions about matters both large and small.

Those of us fortunate to work with Don on the law school's staff quickly discovered that he could be relied on for sage advice, encyclopedic institutional memory, and incisive, even-handed analysis. Don supported deans, faculty, and staff through many challenges, including the major expansion and renovation that almost doubled the size of the building in 2002. Personal computers were still a rumor when Don joined our staff, and he presided over the advancement of classroom and office technology from typewriters, copiers and overhead projectors to clunky personal computers and fax machines to laptops and a wireless Internet network. The law school added LL.M. and Ph.D. programs as well as a summer study abroad program with his help.

In addition to offering steady guidance in navigating the practical aspects of these major transitions, Don made sure everyone remained mindful of how each decision supported our mission of providing an excellent legal education. In the course of a single day at work, Don faced issues as varied as building maintenance, ABA reporting, grant administration, supervising admissions and career services, and implementing changes to the curriculum, all with good-humored aplomb. He also left us with a lasting legacy, his history, Vanderbilt Law School: Aspirations and Realities, published by the Vanderbilt University Press in 2008.

Don leaves us at a time when the challenges law schools, their students, and their faculty and staff face have never seemed greater. While I don't begrudge him a well-earned retirement, I will miss him. We all will.

Chris Guthrie
Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law

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