BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Nils Olsen announced today that he will step
down in December as dean of the University at Buffalo Law School to
attend to personal and family health issues.
Olsen has served since 1998 as the 18th dean of the UB Law
School. He has overseen several innovations and successes at the
school, including significantly improving the law school's
classroom and student facilities and increasing student enrollment
by 25 percent.
He also has held leadership positions for several key university
initiatives, including serving as chair of UB's Intercollegiate
Athletics Board and the Corrigan Committee, which is studying the
future of UB's intercollegiate athletics programs. He has provided
leadership to the UB 2020 strategic planning group charged with
strengthening UB's focus on civic engagement and public policy.
"I am very privileged to have played a leadership role at UB and
in the very special place that is the UB Law School," Olsen said.
"Unfortunately, there are personal and family health concerns that
require my attention.
"I particularly have enjoyed working with UB President John B.
Simpson, Provost Satish K. Tripathi and Interim Executive Vice
President Beau Willis," Olsen added. "Their vision for UB is very
exciting and I look forward to working with them in the
Among his accomplishments, Olsen successfully lobbied New York
State for professional-school tuition for the UB Law School, the
only law school in SUNY, and reinvested tuition revenues into new
services and facilities for students. He led a capital campaign for
the law school that exceeded its $12 million goal.
"I would like to thank the faculty and staff of the UB Law
School for their support over the years," Olsen said. "Their hard
work is really the reason for the school's many successes."
Simpson praised Olsen's leadership of the UB Law School and
commended him for exemplary service to the university
"Quite frankly, it's going to be hard to imagine Nils not being
dean," Simpson said. "From the moment I arrived at UB, I've thought
of him as the definitive university citizen and leader. From his
instrumental contributions to reshaping the law school curriculum
to his leadership in building the university's clinical education
programs, Nils has had an impact that is keenly felt throughout our
"More recently, Nils has been among the most thoughtful,
creative advocates for UB 2020, especially for the development of
our strategic strengths and, indeed, his contribution to the civic
engagement strategic strength has been absolutely critical."
Simpson said Olsen "carries with him a deep respect for all
aspects of UB's mission, and a particularly acute understanding of
the social, economic and legal dynamics of our region. His steady
support for UB's Regional Institute has made it one of the
signature contributions to local governance, and an outstanding
example of the pivotal role UB plays within our surrounding
communities. His leadership on the Corrigan Committee and the
Intercollegiate Athletics Board has contributed significantly to
the growth and success of Division I athletics at UB.
"I value him as a colleague and trusted advisor," Simpson added,
"and while I will miss him as a dean, I assure him that we will be
calling on his expertise and insights on a regular basis. We now
have very big shoes to fill at the law school."
According to Tripathi, Olsen's tenure as dean has been
characterized by a desire to advance continually the law school's
curriculum, while providing students with many real-life
opportunities to practice law through work with community members
"Under Nils' leadership, the UB Law School has become nationally
recognized for its progressive curriculum and the quality of its
graduates, and has become distinctly recognized as an intellectual
bastion for legal scholarship," Tripathi noted. "As an academician,
Nils understands the value of augmenting one's theoretical
education with the experiential. And, today, our graduates are
highly valued because of the real-life experiences gained as
students. Perhaps, more importantly, Nils fosters -- whether as
teacher, mentor, dean or university citizen -- the inherent value
of offering one's professional expertise for the betterment of our
community. And we see evidence of this throughout our community in
the exceptional work conducted by our students and faculty in our
many socially progressive and environmentally focused UB Law School
"Throughout my tenure," Tripathi added, "I have called upon Nils
for his wise counsel and leadership, to which he never hesitated to
respond and to him I am truly thankful. And, as soon as he is back
in 'full swing,' I anticipate our work together will pick up where
we left off. But, in the meantime, he will be missed."
Olsen said he plans to take a six-month leave from the UB Law
School beginning in January 2008 and then will return to resume
teaching a course in civil procedure, a subject he has taught for
26 years in the school. He will continue to pursue research in the
areas of federal post-conviction remedies and environmental
A national search for a new law school dean will begin in May,
Olsen was vice dean for academic affairs in the UB Law School
for four years prior to his appointment as dean. As vice dean he
oversaw implementation of the school's new curriculum, designed to
bridge the gap that historically has existed between law school
education and practice.
He has served as director of clinical education for the law
school, maintaining administrative responsibility for the in-house
clinical program consisting of as many as nine clinical instructors
who provide closely supervised, legal experience in diverse areas
of practice to about 100 students each year.
Olsen joined the UB law faculty in 1978 after serving as a law
lecturer and clinical fellow at the University of Chicago School of
Law. Prior to that, he was judicial law clerk to Chief Judge Thomas
E. Fairchild of the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in
In his clinical teaching at the UB Law School, Olsen represented
the plaintiffs in Smith v. Coughlin, a federal habeas
corpus class-action lawsuit filed in the Western District of
New York that challenged the significant delays that were prevalent
on direct appeals of state criminal convictions. The case led to
substantial changes in the oversight of such appeals in the
Appellate Division and increased county funding of indigent
He also has represented numerous community-based, citizen
environmental groups and several local municipalities in on-going
environmental disputes, ranging from the proposed siting of
hazardous-waste incinerators in Niagara County to assisting in the
drafting of local land-use planning legislation. He was
instrumental in the negotiation and drafting of a comprehensive
agreement between a national hazardous-waste disposal corporation
and Niagara County municipalities that resulted in a 15-year ban on
applications for approval of hazardous-waste incinerators.
Olsen is a resident of Youngstown.