South Texas College of Law Houston Dean Donald Guter is retiring as president and dean after the upcoming academic year.
He announced his plan to retire in late April in an email to the South Texas law community. Guter served in the U.S. Navy for 32 years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, advancing from trial counsel up the ladder to Rear Admiral, and retiring in 2002. From 2005 to 2008 he was dean of Duquesne University School of Law. He joined South Texas as its dean in 2009.
Texas Lawyer emailed Guter some questions about his future plans, past accomplishments, what he’ll miss and what he hopes for in his replacement. Here are his answers, edited for brevity, clarity and style.
Why are you stepping down as dean?
I have decided to begin enjoying my retirement when my contract expires at the conclusion of the 2018 to 2019 academic year. We recently completed a routine, periodic [American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar] site visit required of all accredited law schools, and learned that we are in compliance with all standards and will remain an accredited school, thereby making this is an opportune time to begin the search for the school’s 11th president and dean. With a smooth transition, the new president will have ample time to prepare for our next capital campaign and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the law school.
What will you be doing now?
I plan to serve as a consultant for South Texas during the 2019 to 2020 academic year, helping to ensure a seamless transition for the new president and dean. Following this sabbatical year, I will enter full retirement.
Looking back at your time there, what are three major things that you are proud that you accomplished?
I am proud that—together, with our exceptional faculty, staff, and board of directors—we achieved much during my tenure as president and dean. The accomplishments of which I am most proud include: balancing South Texas’s budget while cutting the law school’s debt in half to $6 million and growing the endowment by 35 percent; growing South Texas’s clinical program from four clinics in a renovated garage space in 2009 to the 19 innovative, specialized clinics of the Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics—housed today in a beautifully renovated floor of the law school; increasing minority enrollment from 31 percent to 45 percent; and increasing the school’s national recognition through the National Jurist’s ranking of South Texas as a “Best Value Law School” in 2018 and PreLaw magazine’s ranking of South Texas as one of the nation’s “Most Diverse” law schools in 2018; and restructuring all departments at South Texas—particularly the departments of Financial Aid, Career Resources, Marketing/Communications, and Philanthropy—to better serve the needs of the school.
What’s something you wanted to do, but you were unable? Why?
If you look back at my career in legal education and the 32 years I served in the U.S. Navy, you will see that I am not a person of regrets. That said, I would have liked to have spent more time with my family, and in retirement I plan to do just that.
What do you think that you will miss the most?
There is a long list of things I will greatly miss when I retire from South Texas. Chief among these will be the personal connections and one-on-one interactions I’ve had the privilege of enjoying with all in the South Texas community, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Those who love, support, and sacrifice for our law school truly are a family—one of key reasons South Texas espouses such a unique, welcoming environment and inspires such loyalty among students and alumni.
Angela Morris is a freelance reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @AMorrisReports