Faculty Spotlight: Dean Christine Smith

Friday, June 10, 2022
Dean Christine Smith

Many years ago, a mentor of Dean Christine Smith told her that if she ever had the chance to open a law school, she should. And when she and founding dean Dick Morgan came to Las Vegas in the late 1990s, that’s exactly what they did. The law school that she worked so hard to help found and that she has cherished and fostered throughout her more than 25 years at Boyd bears her imprint. Boyd would be a very different – and poorer – place without Dean Smith’s contributions. So, with a heavy heart – but also one that is happy for Chris – I share the news that after 25 years of dedication and service to the Boyd School of Law, Dean Smith is retiring. “Retirement” is a relative term, however, as Dean Smith will continue to serve the Las Vegas community and pursue her passion for pro bono work as she joins the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada as its Director of Community Initiatives and Outreach. The good news for all of us at the law school is that we will have many opportunities to continue to work with Dean Smith in her new role.  

As a founding dean, Chris helped establish the Boyd School of Law and embraced and promoted its community service mission throughout her career. For 25 years, she has impacted the lives of countless students and community members through her leadership of Boyd’s Community Service Program and her work with our Public Interest Fellows, and she has been an integral part of Boyd’s success and growth as an institution. We can never thank her enough for her dedication to the law school, to our students, and to our community. She will be missed. 

To recognize Dean Smith’s legacy and her contributions to the law school, I am so pleased to announce the establishment of the Christine Smith Public Interest Fellowship Program. Please keep an eye out this fall for an opportunity to contribute to this scholarship fund in Dean Smith’s honor. The Fellowship Program will support our students as they serve our community and will further Boyd’s public service mission as Dean Smith first envisioned it 25 years ago. The law school’s Community Service Program – the legal education program for the public that Dean Smith created and nurtured over her many years at the law school – will also be renamed in her honor. We will miss seeing Dean Smith at the law school, but her impact, her emphasis on the importance of public service, and her many kindnesses and mentoring will continue to be felt by our students – and by all of us – for years to come.

You can read more about Dean Smith’s countless contributions to UNLV and the Boyd School of Law here. This special edition of Boyd Briefs wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t hear from some of the many friends and colleagues who have worked with Dean Smith over the years. Thank you, Dean Smith, for everything you’ve done for Boyd and good luck in this next chapter!

Dick Morgan, Founding Dean of Boyd School of Law  

Chris has been my friend and colleague for forty-two years, during which I have been amazed by her tireless efforts and success in all of the increasingly responsible positions that she has held, first at the Arizona State University College of Law and then at Boyd.  Over the course of her career, she rose through the ranks to become a nationally-respected leader of legal education.

Chris’ willingness to join me in the creation of the William S. Boyd School of Law was a major factor in my decision to accept the founding deanship.  I knew that founding a law school would be a daunting task that would require experienced, capable and dedicated leaders to pull it off.  Chris is such a leader, and she played a huge role in facilitating the opening of a very good law school only eleven months after she and I arrived at UNLV. That school garnered ABA accreditation and AALS membership at the earliest possible times, accomplishments that required huge amounts of effort and that Chris led.  Throughout her tenure at Boyd, Chris has always dedicated herself to the success of the school,  and, after almost twenty-five years of service, she is the longest serving employee of the law school.  

Chris has certainly earned her retirement from Boyd and the thanks of the Boyd community for a job well done. That job was the creation and nurturing of a school that is now a major resource for Nevada and American legal education.

Mary Berkheiser, Founding Clinical Program Director & Joyce Mack Professor of Law Emerita

Dean Christine Smith – The Life of Boyd

I met Christine Smith when she was at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, after I joined the faculty as a visiting clinical professor.  If you asked me what Christine did, I’d have to say “Everything.”  She was the life of that school, as she would become, in spades, the life of Boyd.  

As a founding faculty member of Boyd, I was privileged to work with an incredible cast of founders from ASU - Dean Richard Morgan, Law Librarian Richard Brown, and Associate Dean Christine Smith.  We all had roles to play as we created the William S. Boyd School of Law, but it was difficult to define a role that Christine did not play. From class schedules to faculty offices to student organizations and CLE, Christine touched everything that made Boyd the unique and special place it is.  An ardent advocate for students, organizer and manager of the Community Service Program, task master of all things necessary for Boyd to maintain ABA accreditation, and masterful community leader, Christine was all that anyone could want in a law school destined for greatness.

Finally, and by no means the least, Christine was a good and loyal friend to many faculty, staff, and students, and in no small measure, to me.  Thank you, Christine, for all you’ve given and all you will continue to give.

Frank Durand, Founding Dean of Student Services

No one -- no one -- has worked longer or harder to build and sustain this law school than Chris Smith. And I only had the privilege of working at Boyd because Chris and the other founders chose to bring me on board in the second wave of hiring. For that, I am forever grateful.

  Chris, Veronica and I wish you and Raymond all the happiness you surely have earned. Oh, the things you can do when you don't have to go to work every day!  

Dianne Fouret, Executive Assistant to the Dean

Associate Dean Christine Smith played an integral role in the creation, development and success of the William S. Boyd School of Law.  I met her in 1997 and we worked together closely for more than 20 years—as well as becoming good friends. I wish her a happy and productive retirement. 

Jean Whitney, Emerita Professor of Law 

When I think of Christine, I picture “connector” extraordinaire.  Her tireless dedication to developing connections within UNLV, in the community, with accrediting bodies, and with staff, faculty, and students was amazing. Having had the opportunity to work with her the adventure of starting a new law school was the experience of a lifetime for me and I got a lifelong friend for whom I will be ever-thankful!

Christine came from ASU with the rest of the “fabulous four” (Founding Dean Dick Morgan, the late Rick Brown, founding director of the law library, and Professor Mary Berkheiser) to start the William S. Boyd School of Law. As the associate dean for student services, administration, facilities management, and compliance, she worked tirelessly to make connections on so many levels.   

Perhaps the most visible impact of the connections Christine made in the community are those that led to the development of the community legal education program, which connects students with attorneys from Clark County Legal Services to teach free weekly classes on a variety of legal topics to members of the community. Since its inception, the program has served 76,000 individuals and Christine was recognized in 2003 with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award in the non-profit category and in 2012 by the American Association of Law Schools, Section on Pro-Bono & Public Service, when she received the Father Robert Drinan Award. 

After the community service program was underway, Christine created more opportunities for students to be involved in community legal service by developing the Partners in Pro Bono and the Pro Bono Honors programs. In both programs students work with attorneys on pro bono cases; those students who accumulate a sufficient number of pro bono hours are recognized at graduation. Christine also established Community Law Day which happens every fall and which introduces incoming students to the responsibility they will have as practicing attorneys to provide pro bono services.  

Making connections with people in all departments of the university was also important – knowing who to contact in the facilities and maintenance departments ensured we got the help we needed to make the former Paradise Elementary School work as a law school for the first three (or four) years and relationships with planning and development and construction helped to get the renovations to the permanent home of the law school completed.  

Because we were starting the first law school in Nevada, most of the faculty and staff came from away and Christine was always on board to plan and participate in activities that would help us connect with each other and get to know each other in contexts other than faculty or committee meetings.  I will always remember fondly - the women’s book group for faculty & staff, where we didn’t have to read the book if we didn’t have time; “full moon walks,”  when we would have dinner at the home of one of the faculty who lived in Summerlin & then walk the scenic drive at Red Rock Canyon as the moon rose in the east valley; the annual dinner Organization of Women Law Students dinner that Christine would host at her home so that the students could meet with the faculty and staff for a fun evening; and bowling nights at one of the local casinos that gave faculty, staff and students something fun to do instead of studying or preparing for class. 

Barbara Buckley, Director of Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada

Since the earliest days of the William S. Boyd School of Law, Christine worked tirelessly to ensure that the school developed lawyers who were committed to public interest law and service to the disenfranchised in our community. Whether it was organizing the pro bono honors program, the public interest fellows, Community Law Day, or the Community Legal Service classes, Christine has permanently changed our community for the better. And, of course, this was in addition to all she did helping the school become the powerhouse it is today. While we are sad to see her leave the Law School, we are very happy that she will not be going far!

Kay Kindred, Professor of Law

In my opinion, no one has worked harder for or been more committed to the success of the Boyd School of Law and its students than Associate Dean Christine Smith.  

 Her tireless efforts on behalf of Boyd Law are far too varied and numerous to list.  Whether overseeing the renovations of the buildings that became the law school's home at the center of the UNLV campus, creating and supervising Boyd's highly successful Community Service Program or serving as the faculty advisor for the Organization of Women Law Students from its inception, to mention just a few examples, her enduring contributions to the success and reputation of the William S. Boyd School of Law cannot be overstated.  Despite her well-deserved retirement, she will always be a part of the Boyd Law community.

Jeanne Price, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Every law school should have a Christine Smith.  Over her twenty-five years at Boyd, she has been, from time to time, our inspiration, our conscience, and our dearest friend.  

Dean Smith has always been true to her – and the law school’s – commitment to the community and public service and we have all – students, staff, and faculty alike – benefitted from her work, her kindness, and her grace.  We will miss her greatly. 

Stacy Shiroma, Boyd School of Law Registrar

Thank you for everything that you have done at Boyd for the past 25 years. Thank you for your hard work, tireless energy, vision, and leadership. Thank you for being so instrumental in transforming Boyd from a young start-up law school to one of the top law schools in the west.  Thank you for taking a chance on this coconut from Hawaii and hiring me as the Registrar. Thank you for being a good colleague and a trusted confidant.  As your retirement day draws closer, look back at your time at Boyd with a satisfied smile and a feeling of a job well done because it was a job very well done.  Congratulations and a heartfelt aloha, Chris!

Darcy Johnson '02, Charter Class 

As a member of the Charter Class, I recall Dean Smith doing multiple jobs - true of all the founding faculty and staff. But Christine truly did it all. Helped set up all the student organizations, encouraged students to mix and mingle and help each other out since we had no upper class students to show us the way. She helped us find classrooms when we first began on campus; and directed (both cars and foot) traffic around Paradise Elementary School when we moved in there. She was truly the glue that held our fledgling law school together - I wish here all the best in her next adventures! 

John Piro '10, Chief Deputy Public Defender

Dean Smith is the person you go to when you want to get things done!  Her service to our state, our community, and the way she helped shape Boyd into a powerhouse state school with a community service focus is second to none.  My life, and the lives of countless other students, and community members, have been made significantly better because of Dean Smith’s investment in our community.
 

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