Longtime federal appeals court judge and Lawrence resident Deanell Tacha has been named as Pepperdine University’s dean of law.
She will begin in her new position on June 1.
“This is rather bittersweet,” Tacha said Thursday afternoon, shortly after the announcement was made public. “Lawrence remains the home of my heart and I’ll be back frequently.”
Pepperdine President Andrew Benton said that he selected Tacha from a field of three finalists given to him by a search committee.
He said he was looking for a dean with excellent academic credentials, demonstrated leadership qualities and a sense of the purpose of the university, which is a private Christian school in Malibu, Calif.
Most importantly, he said, the new dean had to be someone who brought an enthusiasm for the job and would bring a positive force to the school.
Tacha was “all that and more,” he said. “Anyone who’s spent time with Judge Tacha — now Dean Tacha — can’t help but be impressed.”
Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Tacha has served on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals since January 1986. She was the appellate court’s chief judge from January 2001 to 2007.
She has also been a member of the KU law faculty and rose through the ranks to the position of KU’s vice chancellor for academic affairs before being appointed to the federal bench.
Tacha said she’ll be staying involved with a number of volunteer and civic organizations in Lawrence. She said she hoped to continue her work with the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, though she didn’t know if she’d be able to continue as chairwoman.
She said she’d also like to continue her association with the KU Endowment Association if her new employer allows. Though fundraising would certainly be a requirement of her job at Pepperdine, she said the two schools likely don’t compete for many donors’ funds.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from KU and a law degree from the University of Michigan.
Her appointment follows a nine-month national search to replace former dean Kenneth W. Starr, who became president of Baylor University.
Tacha, who just entered senior status as a judge earlier this year, will retire completely from the bench in June as she takes her new post.