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Richard Gershon spent four years enthusiastically guiding the young Texas Wesleyan University School of Law through growing pains, working to increase the bar exam pass rate of its graduates and to boost the institution’s reputation. Gershon still supports the Fort Worth school but is resigning as dean over funding disagreements with university officials, he says. On Aug. 16, Gershon announced that he would step down in May 2003 and return to full-time teaching after taking a yearlong sabbatical. Gershon says he objects to the use of $1 million generated by the law school last year for other parts of the Wesleyan budget and to a request by administrators that the school not spend this year’s profit. The dean says the surplus should help the law students who generated it. “I’d like to put it into scholarship enhancement and a program to pay stipends for law journal editors and to build the moot court and mock trial programs,” he says. Texas Wesleyan University President Harold Jeffcoat says the disagreement between him and Gershon was bigger than the financial aspect and included differences over management of the law school. He declines to go into detail. “I’ll just say that the dean and I saw things differently and leave it at that,” Jeffcoat says. However, he adds, the two agreed that their goal was to make the law school the best it could be. He describes Gershon, a tenured member of the faculty, as a great asset. “We’re realistic,” the president says. “It’ll be hard to find someone with the zeal and unabashed enthusiasm that Richard Gershon has.” Jeffcoat says the university has been discussing selling the law school for almost two years, which he acknowledges has been a distraction. Texas Christian University made an offer recently, but the Texas Wesleyan board of trustees turned it down as too low, Jeffcoat says. He refuses to reveal the amount of the offer and says he doesn’t know whether sale efforts will continue. The law school was established in 1992 when the university bought the Dallas/Fort Worth School of Law. This year, the law school has a $10 million budget, $4.3 million for operating costs and the rest for personnel, and an enrollment of more than 700 students, its highest ever. Many of its students are considered nontraditional, starting their legal education after working in another field. The law school offers night classes and a part-time program to accommodate working students. Gershon, then a professor and associate dean at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., came to Texas Wesleyan as vice dean in 1998 while the school was trying to get full accreditation from the American Bar Association. The law school received full approval in 1999. Gershon says he and his wife, Donna Levine, a former editor at Vogue and Discover magazines, who have two young children, fell in love with the school and Fort Worth. The dean is still a big supporter. “The law school is doing well,” he says. “It has a great group of faculty. I love the school, and I still very much believe in it.” Among the school’s recent accomplishments are a better bar exam pass rate, which hit 86 percent for the summer 2001 test, and a bigger applicant pool, up to 1,300 this year from 1,000 four years ago, he says. “We initiated a pro bono requirement for graduation for our students,” Gershon says. “We’ve hired some wonderful faculty and a great staff, enhanced our career services office and, personally, I’ve made a lot of good friends in the community.” Gershon is the fourth dean at one of the state’s nine law schools to announce his resignation in the past year. John Brittain, of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, resigned from his position effective May 31, 2002. He announced that he would spend a year on sabbatical then return to full-time teaching at the school. Brittain, who was dean for three years, denies that he resigned over conflicts with TSU administrators over the law school budget and a routine accreditation review by the ABA. Frank T. Read, president and dean of South Texas College of Law in Houston, announced on April 23 that he plans to step down in August 2003. Read also will take a one-year sabbatical, then return to the college faculty. And Texas Tech University School of Law Dean W. Frank Newton resigned effective Dec. 31, 2001, to become executive director of the Class Settlement Charity Foundation in Beaumont.

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