GREENVILLE, S.C.—Rodney A. Smolla officially became Furman University’s 11th president on Thursday, July 1.
Smolla replaces David E. Shi, who retired June 30 after 16 years as president. Furman announced in December 2009 that Smolla would become the university’s next president.
“I’ve spent the past seven months preparing for this moment, and I’m excited about getting started at Furman,” Smolla said. “There are lots of wonderful things happening at the university, and it’s been especially fun to pull for the U.S. soccer team this summer since the American squad included Furman alums Clint Dempsey and Ricardo Clark. My family is looking forward to becoming energetic participants in the life of the Furman and Greenville communities.”
A nationally known legal scholar, teacher, advocate and writer, Smolla is one of America’s foremost experts on issues relating to freedom of speech, academic freedom and freedom of the press. A native of the Chicago area, he is a 1975 graduate of Yale University and graduated first in his class from Duke University Law School in 1978.
Prior to coming to Furman, the 57-year-old Smolla served three years as Dean and Roy L. Steinheimer Professor of Law at Washington and Lee School of Law. He has also been Dean and Allen Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law as well as Director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at the College of William & Mary.
During his legal career, Smolla has presented arguments in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He has also testified before committees of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
He is the author of several books, including Free Speech in an Open Society (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt: The First Amendment on Trial (St. Martin’s Press, 1988) and Deliberate Intent (Crown Publishers, 1999). His latest book, The Constitution Goes to College, describes the constitutional principles and ideas that have shaped American higher education. It is scheduled for publication in late 2010 by New York University Press.
A frequent commentator in the media, Smolla has written pieces for the New York Times Book Review and is a regular contributor to the on-line magazines Slate.com and The Huffington Post.
He has remained an active teacher during his career, and he will teach a course at Furman this fall that will explore the constitutional law principles that have influenced America’s public and private universities. He has also been a professor at the University of Illinois, University of Arkansas and DePaul University law schools, and a Senior Fellow of the Washington Annenberg Program of Northwestern University. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Melbourne, University of Denver, and Duke law schools.
He is married to Michele B. Smolla, and their blended family includes five children, from college age through fourth grade. One of their children, Miles, is a sophomore at Furman.
For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.