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Kathleen Sullivan’s decision to step down as Stanford Law School dean leaves the elite institution searching for a leader who can build on Sullivan’s intense fund-raising efforts and alumni outreach. Sullivan, who announced Wednesday she would step down as dean in September 2004 to head a new constitutional law center at Stanford, raised nearly $56 million in donations for the law school since taking the helm in 1999, the school said. Lawyers, academics and law school deans said Stanford Law’s new chief will need a deft touch with alumni to keep contributions flowing. “Sometimes there’s donor fatigue,” said Pillsbury Winthrop Chairman Mary Cranston, a Stanford alumna. “You have to get the donors to realize that even though they have contributed to the school, it still needs continuing support.” Sullivan’s announcement comes just as Stanford prepares for its Alumni Weekend, a top time for schmoozing with potential donors. The law school is hosting a dinner with the dean for large contributors. Fund raising is nothing new for deans, but the pressure to find more money has intensified in recent years, law schools deans say. That may account for the relatively short tenure of a number of deans. Sullivan is just one in a series of law school dean departures from Bay Area universities in the past year. Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Mack Player announced in September 2002 that he would step down. That was quickly followed by the announcement that Peter Keane, dean of Golden Gate University School of Law, had opted not to renew his contract. In November 2002, Boalt Hall School of Law was shaken by scandal when Dean John Dwyer gave a month’s notice that he would step down amid allegations of sexual harassment. The terms of Dwyer’s departure are a special case, but turnover among university administrators, especially deans, is not uncommon. One Golden Gate University administrator said the average term in the job of law school dean is four years. Sullivan was plucked from Stanford’s faculty in 1999 to take over as dean for a five-year term. In her statement, Sullivan said she wanted to return to academia. “I have decided that it is now time for me to return to a life devoted to research, teaching and public advocacy in constitutional law,” Sullivan wrote this week in a letter to faculty, students and alumni. Sullivan is a nationally recognized constitutional scholar, and her hire as a Stanford faculty member in 1993 from Harvard Law School was considered a coup. During her tenure as dean, Sullivan secured a 40 percent donation rate among law school alumni, according to a Stanford Law School statement. She also added seven faculty members, fostered the endowment of eight new professorships and oversaw the creation of centers of Internet, e-commerce and biotechnology law, in addition to the constitutional law center she will head next year. Pillsbury’s Cranston, who served as chairwoman of the law school’s Board of Visitors and worked closely with Sullivan, said Sullivan was particularly adept at turning alumni relationships into donations. Sullivan took over just as the university was wrapping up a $100 million fund-raising campaign. Cranston said Sullivan skillfully coaxed annual gifts from donors who had been plucked for cash during the campaign. “She was good at keeping alumni informed and communicating about the need to continue to support the school,” Cranston said. “People had a feeling they got a good return.” Cranston said she doesn’t expect the university to seek a dean who envisions major changes, but instead will seek a highly credentialed candidate to continue Sullivan’s efforts. “I think everybody’s been pretty pleased,” Cranston said. “I don’t really expect to see a huge change in direction.” Joseph Grundfest, a Stanford Law School securities professor, said Sullivan has made an indelible mark on the university. “She’s excellent on both the infrastructure and super-structure,” Grundfest said, adding that Sullivan supervised the renovation of the law school’s buildings while also maintaining a high level of prestige for the school. Stanford ranked No. 2 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report‘s latest rankings of the nation’s top law schools. George Alexander, who was dean of Santa Clara University School of Law from 1970 to 1985, said running the day-to-day operations of the school was simple compared to the challenges of raising money and catering to alumni. “I didn’t like the fund-raising aspect,” Alexander said. He said he was lucky because the university had launched a fund-raising campaign and told him to focus on running the school. Still, he said, “among the more difficult tasks is keeping alumni happy. I know of no one making law school deaning a career.”

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