Privileged to serve, not indispensable

Dean Robert Jerry

Dean Robert Jerry

One day early this spring as I walked out of the Dean Suite by the glass wall on the second floor that separates Holland Hall and the Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center, I saw a young man who appeared lost in the surroundings and in need of help finding something. I said, “Can I help you?” and he asked, in a state of apparent puzzlement, “How do I get into the library up here? Where’s the door on this floor?” I explained there were no entrances to the library on the second floor, and that he could get to the courtyard and enter the Legal Information Center through its entrance there, which is the only entrance. I also gave him a brief explanation of the architecture of the law school and why the library’s access is limited that way. I thought he was probably a newly admitted student, an applicant to the 2014 entering class, or a visitor from out of town, because often that time of year we have applicants who come to the college to visit as they consider their different law school options. So I asked him if he was from out of town or was an undergraduate from across the campus. He replied, “Oh no, I’m a firstyear law student.” As I stood there trying to wrap my mind around the notion of a first-year law student deep in the second semester not having a full understanding of how to get in and out of the law library, he then turned to ask me another question: “And what is your role here?”

I will always remember this student and this conversation with great fondness. Although the student was deeply chagrined and will probably never forget this conversation either, he created an occasion that reminds us of an important lesson: None of us is indispensable, none of us is irreplaceable, and none of us has a role so singularly important that the organizations and institutions we serve will be unable to go on without us. But hopefully most of us are able at some time in our lives to experience the privilege of being parts of teams within institutions — teams that work together to do good, and sometimes great, things to move the institutions we serve farther down the road in fulfillment of missions and purposes that align with our own personal passions. That has certainly been my experience at the Levin College of Law. I am both blessed and privileged to have worked with many truly great and dedicated colleagues whose leadership and service have made our college stronger and have helped it come closer to realizing its aspirations.

I cannot say enough to thank our alumni for all of your help and support throughout these years. The evidence of your support is evident throughout our facilities, our programs, our curriculum, our fundraising, and the news in this magazine. I am grateful to the faculty and staff who have given significant portions of their professional lives to educating and supporting the education of the next generations of lawyers in our profession. The students are the ones we serve, but many of them are already serving the college and manifesting their pride at being a part of the “Gator law nation.” It has been my privilege to be a part of this alumni-faculty-staff-student team.

I also thank in advance my friend and colleague George Dawson, whose outstanding service to the college for the past 33 years, including eight years as the senior associate dean for academic affairs (four of which were during my deanship), will continue in 2014-15 in George’s new role as the interim dean. The Levin College of Law will be in great hands this next year, and I know all of you join me in promising George and his leadership team our assistance and unqualified support.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your college’s dean. Both Lisa and I are grateful for the many expressions of affection and good wishes we have received, and we take great joy in the many lasting friendships we have made. Thank you so very much, and “Go Gators!”