Fall 2005 #2. Maine Law gets a new dean: an interview with Peter Pitegoff.

Author:interview by Michael Atleson

Maine Bar Journal


Fall 2005 #2.

Maine Law gets a new dean: an interview with Peter Pitegoff

Maine Bar JournalFall 2005MAINE LAW GETS A NEW DEAN: AN INTERVIEW WITH PETER PITEGOFFinterview by Michael AtlesonAfter seven years, the University of Maine School of Law's dean, Colleen Khoury, announced that she was stepping down to return to full-time teaching as a member of the faculty. The Law School then went about the difficult task of replacing her, engaging in a national search that concluded with the selection of Peter Pitegoff. On July 11, 2005, Pitegoff officially took over as the law school's sixth dean, charged with heightening the institution's reputation both locally and nationally. For the previous seven years, Dean Pitegoff had served as vice dean for academic affairs at the University at Buffalo Law School, where he had been a professor since 1988.

You've been a law professor for seventeen years. What interested you about teaching?

I enjoy the energy of the students and the ideas that each new generation of students brings to the mix. I was trained as a high school teacher at Brown University and taught tenth grade social studies. I value sharing the process of discovery with students. It's a mutual process. Teaching is a great way to learn, so I learn and see the progress that students make as well. Now that I've been at it for quite a few years, it's gratifying to see how some of my former students have moved on to do wonderful things in practice.

How did you get your start as a law professor?

I first dipped my toe in the water as an adjunct at Harvard Law School, which was the neighborhood school, as my office was only a mile up the street. Then I became an adjunct law professor at NYU School of Law and commuted from Boston to New York every Monday, each fall semester, for a couple of years. I liked teaching, and being a full-time law professor became a very attractive option for me. I also wanted to write and focus on my research and, as anyone in full-time practice knows, it's hard to find time to do that. So I decided to take the plunge.

After teaching law at the State University of New York at Buffalo for several years, you were named vice dean for academic affairs there in 1998. What interested you about law school administration?

I had been a professor for ten years, and I had managed to mix theory and practice by running a clinical program in economic development while also teaching core courses in the classroom. I was writing and deriving my scholarship ideas from the practical world, and the scholarship in turn informed my practice. I saw tremendous potential for institutional development in terms of moving the law school in the direction of integrating theory and practice.

Can you give me an example of this kind of integration?

Early in my career as a law professor, I brought together scholars from various disciplines and universities to examine the political economy of greater Buffalo. As you know, Buffalo has a storied history and many assets, but it also is an aging industrial city with serious problems. As experts in political science, urban planning, sociology, geography, history, economics, and the law, we each conducted research on a different aspect of the region and published our work in a special volume of the Buffalo Law Review. We also held a major conference involving civic leaders to explore potential strategies for urban revitalization. These efforts informed ongoing work by the clinical program at the law school, particularly in community economic development, affordable housing development, and environmental policy. Today, almost two decades later, Buffalo's law school continues to build on that foundation in its wide-ranging clinical and curricular program in economic development.

You and your family are making a big move after seventeen years in Buffalo. What led you to seek the position in Maine?

We love Maine. We have very close friends here, and Portland has long been one of our favorite places. Portland is a dynamic, manageable, cosmopolitan, beautiful city. Combined with its location on the coast, the relative common sense to the politics, and the very positive and supportive culture, Portland became a destination point for us. My wife is from Indiana and I'm from New York, but we spent our formative years in Boston, and our older son was born there. When we left Boston for Buffalo, we knew we would eventually come back to New England. It's like coming home now.

What does your wife do?

My wife is a graphic designer and professor of communication design. She does substantial design work for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center in Buffalo and she's excited about moving to a place - Portland - where the quality of the design world, art world, and cultural activities is so strong.

I recognize that you haven't been here for very long yet, but what are the most substantial differences and similarities you've noticed so far between the law school in Buffalo and the University of Maine Law School?

One similarity is that both law schools value excellence...

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