When Beasley School of Law dean Robert J. Reinstein announced his intent to step down from his positions as vice president of international programs and law school dean by the end of the current academic year, the room full of fellow law faculty and associates were utterly surprised.
“No one really knew it was coming,” said Temple Law professor David Sonenshein, who was present when the announcement was made. “During his speech, he said he served for 19 years and if he was going to leave, this would be the best time to do it because the law school was in the best shape it has ever been in.”
Describing the scene as intense and emotional, Reinstein recalled the tremendous support he always received from fellow faculty members during his tenure as dean of the law school as well as his desire to move on to the next phase in his life.
“I’ve been very lucky to have such great relationships with the faculty and that’s been one of the most rewarding things,” Reinstein said. “I’m going to do the best job I can this year, but I am pretty anxious to go into what I think is the best job in the world as law professor.”
“I never even thought about retiring,” he said. “I want to go back into teaching full-time and do scholarships. I miss that a lot.”
A graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law, Reinstein, 62, joined the Temple Law school faculty in 1969, teaching courses in constitutional law and civil rights advocacy. After a few years as consulting attorney to the NAACP in which he successfully challenged discrimination against the employment of blacks in the Philadelphia Police and Fire departments, Reinstein worked in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Jimmy Carter administration.
Shortly thereafter, Reinstein returned to Temple serving as university counsel until former Temple president Peter Liacouras appointed him dean of Temple’s law school.
The decision to promote Reinstein because of his various pro bono efforts and administrative success, Liacouras said, proved vital in ensuring that Reinstein remain as one of his most trusted advisors.
“Bob Reinstein is the finest dean in the law school’s history,” said Liacouras, who also served as Temple Law dean from 1972 until 1982. “[He] demonstrated that access and excellence are simultaneously attainable, making inroads nationally on Temple’s specialty of producing outstanding trial lawyers while also coordinating the university’s international programs to new levels of reach and excellence.”
As one of America’s longest-serving law school deans, Reinstein increased Beasley endowment from $4 million to $57 million while also serving as vice president of international programs, facilitating international study abroad sites for Temple in places such as Rome and Japan during times of severe economic distress.
By fighting through the difficult challenges that the study abroad sites presented, Reinstein was able to cut the problems that affected a student’s education by fundraising, making increasing financial expenses and poor campus conditions a thing of the distant past.
Fellow faculty members said they take pride in his many accomplishments and his overall dedication to combining accessibility with excellence at Temple.
“Reinstein demonstrated outstanding leadership in building a faculty who balances excellence in both teaching and scholarship,” Sonenshein said. “He has fostered an atmosphere of support, tolerance, diversity and openness both to a variety of points of view and a variety of teaching and scholarship approaches.”
“His leadership has also provided record applications to [the Temple] Law school in a time of generally declining applications nation and region wide,” he said. “[It] has enabled us to enroll the most accomplished and talented students in the law school’s history.”
After fulfilling more than 19 years of administrative legal work at Temple, Reinstein said that he felt he has done all he can for the Beasley and the International Program, and is ready to contribute to the university in other ways.
“I thought it was a good time to step down for two reasons,” Reinstein said. “The law school and international programs are in very good shape and I have a lot of confidence that President Hart will choose excellent successors and the programs will continue to do very well.”
“Being a dean of a school is a little like being a CEO of a small company. There’s always crisis going on, but you have to keep your eye out for what’s really important,” he said.
“It’s just been gratifying to see the positive changes that have been made,” he said. “The university has maintained fidelity with its historical mission.”
President Ann Weaver Hart and Provost Lisa Staiano-Coico will visit the law school faculty tomorrow, Oct. 3, to announce what the process for the search for the next dean of Beasley will be. Reinstein recommended that she conduct two individual searches for both positions.
As far as any advice Reinstein wants to give the incoming dean, he recalls being told the “secret” to being a successful dean as shared with him by one of his colleagues at a Tel Aviv university.
“To have a good sense of humor and just enjoy the job,” he said.
Maya Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.