The move will allow him to spend more time on his scholarship and teaching and to chair a European Union work group revising regulations governing jurisdiction and recognition of foreign judgments.
“That’s one reason to resign now,” said Symeonides, noting that the European Union post will consume much of his attention during 2012. “I believe that change is healthy both for the institution and the individual. The school can benefit from new ideas, and I can go back to teaching and scholarship, which is my true love.”
Instead of launching an immediate search for Symeonides’ replacement, University President M. Lee Pelton has tapped Associate Dean Peter Letsou to run the law school for the next two years. Pelton himself is stepping down, and Letsou’s interim appointment will allow the next university president to oversee a full dean search, Symeonides said.
Quite a few law schools are conducting dean searches, including Northwestern University School of Law, Boston College Law School, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, University of South Carolina School of Law and the University of Colorado School of Law.
Symeonides said he has been contacted by many dean search committees over the years, but was always content to stay at Willamette, in Salem, Ore. He expressed pride in the diversity and scholarly productivity of the law school faculty — more than half of whom he hired.
In a letter to the law school community, Pelton praised Symeonides for his success in fundraising. The school raised $19 million during his time as dean — small compared to some schools, but nearly four times the total donations raised before Symeonides arrived. The law school is 128 years old.
“In light of our history, raising $19 million is something nobody, including me, thought would happen,” Symeonides said.
Symeonides managed to publish 10 books and 44 law review articles while leading the school. Much of his work has focused on conflict of laws.
Symeonides, who is from Greece, taught at a Greek university before accepting a position at the Louisiana State University Paul M. Herbert Law Center in 1987. He was a vice chancellor there for seven years before taking the dean position at Willamette in 1999.
Letsou has taught at Willamette since 2002 and is the director of the school’s law and business program. He taught at the University of Cincinnati College of Law and George Mason University School of Law before coming to Willamette.
“I am confident that Peter’s considerable experience as associate dean and professor will ensure that he will sustain and strengthen Symeon’s enviable legacy,” Pelton wrote.