A new scholarship in the University of Mississippi School of Law will serve as a perpetual tribute to the immediate past dean, Susan Duncan.
Alumni and friends of Ole Miss Law who were gathered at the 2023 meeting of the Mississippi Bar Convention on July 20 surprised Duncan with the announcement of a scholarship fund established in her name.
“I am completely humbled and so honored,” said Duncan, who resigned as dean in 2023 after serving six years but will remain at Ole Miss as a law professor. “As a faculty and staff, we made great strides on behalf of the law school during my tenure. We had challenges, not the least of which was navigating the unique aspects of educating students during a pandemic, but we prevailed together.
“It was a pleasure to serve as dean of the Ole Miss Law School, and I will always be honored that I was given the responsibility of this position. Though I felt it was time to release the reins into the capable hands of Dean Fred Slabach, I’m grateful to be remaining on faculty with my colleagues.”
The Dean Susan Duncan School of Law Scholarship Fund was started by Suzette Matthews, development officer for the School of Law, who considers Duncan one of her closest friends.
“I love Susan and I’m going to miss her so much. I want her legacy as dean to live on forever,” said Matthews, who appealed to law alumni and friends for help funding the scholarship.
Donors responded enthusiastically with contributions already nearing the $50,000 needed to permanently endow the scholarship.
One of those donors is Jeff Hubbard, former UM Law Alumni Chapter president. He said the tribute to Duncan is well deserved.
“Susan was exactly the type of dean that we needed to run our law school. Specifically, she has great leadership qualities and she’s so approachable. People just genuinely like her and want to get on board with what she wants to do,” Hubbard said, adding that the former dean was uniquely successful in relating to her constituents.
“The students, alumni, faculty and staff all love her,” he said. “That just shows that not only is she a brilliant jurist and very smart, but also that she is a very personable dean. And that makes her outstanding.”
Duncan is credited for increases in bar passage rates, enrollment, fundraising and career placement numbers. She’s also lauded for establishing Ole Miss Law School Cares, a program that allows alumni, faculty, staff or students who endure a traumatic event to receive help from members of the same community.
Senior Associate Dean Ben Cooper served with Duncan all six years of her tenure.
“I got to work with her up close and talk with her on a daily basis. Primarily, what I respect and admire about her as a leader is that she prioritized serving the people she led,” Cooper said. “It was never about her own ego or self-aggrandizement, and Susan demonstrated that in the way that she worked hard in the best interest of the institution.
“We were in a good place when she started, but she took us to an even better place by really trying to get all of the units at the law school to function at their very best,” he continued. “She put the faculty and staff in a position to thrive with her support. If you look at where we are, we have limited resources as a school, but she has helped us maximize our abilities and our talents for the good of the institution.”
Duncan joined the UM School of Law as dean in August 2017. She is the first female to serve as law dean not in an interim capacity. Her teaching and research interests include lawyering skills, education law, family law and restorative practices, and leadership. Her scholarship has focused primarily on issues surrounding children, including the need for anti-bullying laws and laws protecting children from pornography on the Internet. She advocates for the use of restorative practices in schools, universities, and in the workplace and her most recent scholarship focuses on gender inequities in the legal academy with a special emphasis on the role of women leaders.
On the national level, Duncan has served in leadership positions on several boards that focus on the development of new legal writing professors. She frequently presents on legal writing and education law topics, and Business First named her as one of the top 20 people to know in the field of education.
Duncan’s work has garnered recognition by many, including such honors as the 2016 Kentucky Bar President Special Service Award, the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award from Louis Brandeis School of Law and the 2010 Louisville Bar Association Award for Distinguished Service.
Prior to joining the faculty at Ole Miss, she served as interim dean at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, where she began as an adjunct in 1997 and became a full-time faculty member in 2000. During her tenure, she served as chair of UofL’s Commission on the Status of Women and was a member of multiple university committees.
Duncan has been a visiting professor at the University of Montpellier (France), the University KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), the Johannes Gutenberg University (Mainz Germany), the University of Leeds (England) and the University of Turku (Finland).
She received a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and a juris doctor degree from the University of Louisville.
For information on supporting the School of Law or to make a gift to the Dean Susan Duncan School of Law Scholarship Fund, click here or contact Suzette Matthews at email@example.com or 601-937-1497.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation