Long-Serving UA Dean Returns to Full-Time Faculty Seat

James E. Rogers College of Law Dean Toni Massaro will return to the classroom after having helped transform the college into a highly regarded hub of learning, teaching and outreach.
May 21, 2009
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Toni Massaro has served as the UA James E. Rogers College of Law for 10 years. She will return to the professorship in July. (Credit: Tammy Willis)
Toni Massaro has served as the UA James E. Rogers College of Law for 10 years. She will return to the professorship in July. (Credit: Tammy Willis)

In a discipline based on the fundamental rights of citizens and in a college that has been increasingly productive in recent decades, Toni M. Massaro has promoted service, outreach and education for all.

Massaro, the outgoing dean of the James E. College of Law at The University of Arizona, led the college for 10 years, becoming the first woman to serve in the position. She is also one of the longest-serving UA deans in recent history. 

"I never wanted to be a dean anyplace else, and I became a candidate because of this school," said Massaro, a Regents' Professor. She also holds the Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law, has been with the college since 1989 and is an expert in civil procedure and constitutional law.

"But 10 years is a long time for a deanship," Massaro said. "It has been a privilege, I am very grateful and it changed my life for the better. But it's time for new energy."

When she steps down from the position at the end of June, she will return full time to teaching. Lawrence Ponoroff, currently dean and Mitchell Franklin Professor of Private and Commercial Law at Tulane University School of Law, will serve as her successor. His appointment becomes effective July 1.

During Massaro's time as dean, she helped grow the school's reputation for academic excellence, the student body improved in academic and professional performance and numerous outreach and service-oriented programs were introduced.

Among her priorities, she said, has been to promote public education, a "robust democracy" and a sense of community while also supporting her students, faculty and staff.

James E. Rogers, a longtime supporter of the college and University and the college's namesake, said he has long been impressed with Massaro.

"I couldn't get into Arizona law this time," Rogers, a 1962 graduate of the UA college said, adding that he has been impressed with the way Massaro has managed and improved the academic stature the college.

"We know the law school has increased in its value, reputation and substance. It's nice to see your school rising in the ranks," Rogers said. "She has a national reputation, has no ego, is very self-assured and is very focused on goals."

Also, Massaro was focused on advancing fundraising efforts and in attracting some of the most prolific legal scholars and judges – such as former U.S. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi – to teach at the college while helping to broaden the expertise among the faculty.

"I want Arizona law students to have the greatest possibilities to grow while they are here," Massaro said.

At the same time she worked to improve the academic and community side of the house, Massaro saw the college through a major construction project – the Law Commons – which transformed both its physical space and functionality.

"I think she's incredibly energetic and inspirational," said Jane Korn, associate dean for curriculum and information technology and a professor in the law school.

"She pulls people forward rather than pushing them from behind and works hard to bring out the best in everyone," said Korn, who has been with the college since 1986 and has worked closely with Massaro.

She said it was through Massaro's encouragement and guidance that she was able to advance to the role of an associate dean.

"She knows what it is like and wants to try to bridge that gap and she wants to see students be able to do that as well," Korn said.

"What has been so remarkable about her deanship is her ability to bring out the best in everyone," she added. "She works very hard to make sure everyone has a place at the table and works to build a sense of community. She changed my professional life."

A major factor in building the community was the construction of the Law Commons, and central to the commons is the law library.

"We totally modernized the library," said Michael Chiorazzi, the college's associate dean for information services and director of the law library.

"She always said that the heart was the library, and it is much better functionally," Chiorazzi said. "Her vision was that the project was always about the law student and the idea of the library being central to the mission of the law school."

But the Law Commons and law library are not simply about improved space, he said. Both are also about "thinking about what students do outside the classroom. It was about that other life – that professional life."

Several others in the college said it is a boon that Massaro is returning to the faculty and that her decision reflects not only her commitment to the UA and the college but also the student body.

"One of the things that she brought to the deanship was the 10 years of classes she taught as a professor," said law professor Robert Glennon, who has been with the college since 1985 and said he considers Massaro not only a colleague but also a friend.

"She's that good in the classroom and isn't the type of teacher who sugarcoats things or makes it easy," Glennon added. "She expects students to reach and she pushes them. And they deliver."