RALEIGH – The Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law announced Tuesday that Melissa Essary will step away from the dean’s position after six years and will return to full-time faculty responsibilities effective July 1, 2012.
Essary made history in 2006 when she became the first woman dean of the school, located in downtown Raleigh. She led the relocation planning that moved the school from Buies Creek in September 2009, as well as increased law school applications to record levels. Essary grew the student body from 345 in 2006 to the current 477, accompanied by a significant increase in the academic credentials of entering students. She also achieved the highest minority enrollment in the history of the law school and continued the law school’s tradition of having the highest overall bar passage rate in North Carolina on the July bar exam over the past 25 years, among other accomplishments.
Provost Dwaine Greene will convene the search committee to conduct a national search for the next dean of the law school.
Essary came from the Baylor University School of Law in Texas, where she had served on the faculty for 16 years. Prior to that post, she had practiced law professionally for five years, including service with Vinson & Elkins Firm in Dallas, where she specialized in trial and appellate advocacy.
“Melissa Essary was the right person at the right time to lead our law school onto the next level,” said Campbell University President Dr. Jerry M. Wallace. “Her leadership has been extraordinary in its breadth and stunning in its achievement. She will be greatly missed as our law school’s dean.”
Her accomplishments as leader of Campbell’s law school include:
- Attracting a working court, the North Carolina Business Court, Raleigh Division, to the law school, thus joining only a handful of law schools across the country with such an addition.
- Greatly enhancing the school’s alumni relations around the state and throughout the Southeast.
- Conducting a successful Capital Campaign, which included the largest number of alumni gifts and the first million dollar gifts in the law school’s history.
- Expanding student externship opportunities more than 400 percent in the past two years.
- Overseeing the hiring of 11 highly-credentialed faculty members from around the country.
- Presiding over the creation and expansion of multiple law school programs, such as an Intellectual Property Track and a strengthened program of Legal Research and Writing.
- Establishing academic partnerships with N. C. State University through the creation of dual degree programs in law (J.D.), public administration (MPA), and business administration (MBA).
- Helping create the school’s Senior Law Clinic to serve the elderly poor in Wake County.
- Creating a Board of Visitors, to include locally and nationally prominent figures, such as General William Suter, Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court and N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker.
- Creating a Student Pro Bono Council, which provides countless of hours of community service to nonprofit organizations each year in the Raleigh area.
“It has been my privilege to build on the law school’s considerable success in North Carolina, and lead it to even greater visibility across the country,” said Essary. “Campbell Law School has always been dedicated to producing great lawyers, and our ability to do so has been greatly enhanced by our Raleigh location. The law school is soaring toward new heights, and I am honored to have been its dean. I particularly want to thank the faculty and staff colleagues, which as a team has striven together for the advancement of the law school, its role in legal education and the preparation of thousands of students. ”
Essary serves on the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s Executive Committee, and the Eastern N.C. Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She recently completed a three-year term on the Board of Directors for the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which included service on the Government Affairs and Education Subcommittee. She also served as Vice President of the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Bar Association, and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Cardinal Club in Raleigh.
Her professional affiliations include the American Bar Association and the Southeastern Association of Law Schools. Essary’s awards as Campbell law school dean have included being named as a Triangle Area Woman Extraordinaire, Business Impact Leader and Education Impact Leader by Business Leader Media. In 2011, she received the Women of Achievement Award from the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of North Carolina in recognition of her professional and community work.