Groundbreaking Book Traces the History of Lawyer Campus Presidents in the U.S.

April 10, 2023

Touro University Press has published a new and groundbreaking book titled, “May It Please the Campus: Lawyers Leading Higher Education by Patricia E. Salkin, former Law School Dean, current Professor of Law as well as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost of Touro University. The book traces the history of lawyer campus presidents from the 1700s to the present, exploring the important and little-known role that lawyers have played as leaders on college campuses, a phenomenon that is shaping higher education today.

“Each decade over the last three, the number of lawyers being appointed as college and university presidents has doubled, and by the end of the 2020s, the data indicates that 10% of all campus presidents will have been lawyers in this decade,” explains Salkin.  “Recent hires at NYU, Fordham, Barnard, Mount Holyoke, New Jersey City University, Texas Christian University, Hobart William and Smith Colleges, Rosemont College, Bates College, Shawnee State University and Northern Kentucky University and others demonstrate the increasing number of lawyers being selected just in the last year,” Salkin continues, “it’s time to acknowledge this shift in higher education leadership.” 

May it Please the Campus, offers readers a treasure trove of data documenting the changing face of the campus presidency, and offering a glimpse into the backgrounds of lawyer leaders in higher education. The book explores topics including the exponential increase by decade of campus presidents with JD degrees, why lawyers are uniquely suited to serve as university presidents, the emergence of women lawyer presidents, pathways to the presidency for lawyers from private practice, government, academia and other circumstances, and more.

May It Please the Campus examines the reasons for exponential increases in lawyers serving as campus leaders, the growth of legal education and the myriad legal and regulatory issues confronting higher education. To accompany the book release, a website, has been created that provides background and a blog and showcasing specific examples of lawyer presidents in various universities. 

King University President Alexander Whitaker commented, “It was fascinating to learn how many lawyers are now leading colleges and universities. I cannot fathom trying to run a higher-ed institution without being a lawyer, such are the legal issues and risks associated with being in so highly regulated an undertaking and the often very public controversies that seem to come with our work.” He also stated, “I am enormously grateful for the hard work and research that went into the book.”

Eric R. Gilbertson, President Emeritus at Saginaw Valley State University stated, “May It Please the Campus provides interesting historical data and analysis for students of higher education, a useful perspective for boards and search firms, and helpful guidance for lawyers aspiring to college and university presidencies.  It is also a source of pride for lawyer-presidents, documenting how others from the legal profession have - over decades and in good times and bad - mattered greatly in the development of higher education in the United States and beyond.” 
The book is available for purchase at 


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