Nils Olsen to Step Down as Law School Dean for Personal and Family Health Reasons

Release Date: April 16, 2007

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 future."

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 community.

"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 campus community.

"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 and groups.

"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 clinics.

"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 policy.

A national search for a new law school dean will begin in May, Tripathi said.

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 Chicago.

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 appeals.

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.

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