Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Michael Fitts ’79JD:
hail to the chief

The University of Pennsylvania's loss is Tulane's gain. Michael Fitts ’79JD is just hoping that doesn't mean a weight gain.

Fitts, who has been Penn's law dean since 2000, will become Tulane's 15th president in July.

"Tulane is special," he declared at a February 4 press conference announcing his appointment. And so is its host city: "I can't wait to sample, on a daily basis, the delicious New Orleans cuisine, although I know how dangerous that can be for anyone worried about the 'Freshman 15.'" 

With deep roots at Penn—where his father was head of surgery and his grandfather was dean of the Wharton School—Fitts also has family roots in the South, he told his New Orleans audience. And it was a fictitious Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird, who inspired his own career choice.

Finch's "qualities of empathy and judgment accompanied by compassion and, yet, independence from his surroundings so he could see the higher moral principles" are "'why I ended up in law school," Fitts tells the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

At Penn, Fitts "increased the [law] school’s endowment by more than 250 percent, recruited more than 20 faculty members, created partnerships with a half dozen institutions abroad from Beijing to Tokyo, and graduated some 3,500 lawyers," an article last year reported.

Fitts's own dean's page boasts that his focus on interdisciplinary research and teaching "is shaping the future of legal education." A Tulane vice president who sat on the presidential search committee agrees: "This interdisciplinary approach is the future of higher education and the key to reaching a new level of success for Tulane.”

Now Fitts just has to watch out for his own shape.

Filed under Michael Fitts, University of Pennsylvania, Tulane University, Law School
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