UT law graduate named dean of A&M law school in Fort Worth

05/02/2014 6:29 PM

05/02/2014 6:31 PM

The new dean of the Texas A&M School of Law enthusiastically said “Gig ’em, Aggies!” before laughing at himself Friday morning.

“If you told me in ’84 that I would be saying that, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Andrew Morriss said.

In 1984, Morriss got his law degree from the Aggies’ arch rival, the University of Texas at Austin. But starting officially on July 1, Morriss will be the first dean of Texas A&M’s law school in downtown Fort Worth.

After a national search, Morriss was unanimously selected this week by A&M Chancellor John Sharp, interim President Mark Hussey and Karan Watson, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

The former professor at the University of Alabama School of Law said he will focus on attracting students to the school.

“Students are becoming much more demanding consumers,” he said.

He said he wants the community, Texas Wesleyan University law school alumni and A&M undergraduates to help prospective students see the success they can reach.

“One of the things I love about Aggies is they are very competitive,” he said.

The A&M System bought Wesleyan’s law school for $73.2 million in August. Wesleyan had bought the school in 1992 and opened its downtown campus in 1997.

Some Wesleyan law graduates have asked that their diplomas be re-issued because their school no longer exists. About 300 have signed a petition that states: “… A decision to grant TWU School of Law alumni with A&M diplomas is a matter of respect for the work that made the A&M School of Law possible, and the right thing to do.”

“The decision was made by the university, and I can’t change it,” Morriss said Friday. But “we will do everything we can to make sure we are part of the same family. I know some of the alumni are unhappy, but many have accepted offers to join the Aggie Bar Association.”

The association is a networking group of lawyers and law students who share the “Aggie spirit.”

Morriss said he intends to use a $1 million dean endowment recently set up by A&M regent Tony Buzbee, and another $5 million approved by regents Thursday to enhance curriculum and job opportunities for students.

The A&M chancellor also got the OK on Thursday to provide the law school with up to $20 million over the next five years if the school can find donors to match the amount.

The school’s students who took the bar exam in February had an 87.5 percent passing rate, the state Board of Law Examiners recently reported. The state passing average was 80 percent.

Morriss gives credit to Interim Dean Aric Short for making the transition a success so far.

“Aric stepped up and took on a really difficult role,” Morriss said.

Short, who has been at the law school for almost 11 years, will continue to work there, but it wasn’t known Friday in what capacity.

Morriss, whose specialties include offshore financial centers and environmental and energy regulation, hopes to move to downtown Fort Worth.

He said he is glad to be back in Texas. His wife, Carol, is a graduate of A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. And one of her grandfathers graduated from A&M, he said.

Morriss, a New Jersey native, got his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. He has a master’s in public affairs from UT-Austin, and a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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