July 08, 2009

Frank Houdek appointed interim law school dean

by Pete Rosenbery

Frank Houdek
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Frank G. Houdek, associate dean of the Southern Illinois University School of Law, has been appointed interim dean of the law school.

Interim SIUC Provost and Vice Chancellor Don S. Rice announced the appointment today (July 8). Houdek’s appointment is effective July 1, pending ratification by the SIU Board of Trustees.

Since July 2007, Houdek has served as associate dean for academic affairs. The former director of the law school library, Houdek has more than 24 years administrative experience at SIUC. He will also continue as a law professor.

“Frank Houdek moves to the interim deanship from his position as associate dean of the SIU School of Law. He is a long-term member of the School of Law faculty and I believe he brings to the position both historical perspective and a vision of the future for the school,” Rice said. “I think he is very well-positioned to prepare the school for a selection of a new, permanent dean.”

Houdek replaces Peter C. Alexander, who announced last year he was resigning June 30. Alexander, who has been dean since 2003, will be a visiting professor at the Notre Dame Law School this fall, and then on sabbatical in the spring for research for a book he’s writing on the financial dealings of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Houdek said he feels prepared for the job. He said it is too early to say whether he will be a candidate for permanent dean.

Houdek has worked for five permanent deans and several interim or acting deans during his nearly 25 years at the law school.

“I’ve enjoyed working for all of them. I thought they all made important contributions to the School of Law. I’ve learned a lot both working with and observing their job performance,” he said. “I particularly developed a kinship for Dean Alexander. I was the chair of the search committee that selected him. Working as associate dean for the past two years I’ve been able to work very closely with him on a number of matters and observe him, so I think I’ve received a great deal of training from him.”

Houdek views his job as interim dean “as being one that tries to keep the law school on course and leaves the law school in good shape for when a permanent dean arrives.” The law school in the last several years worked hard and completed an ambitious self-study prepared as part of the American Bar Association’s accreditation process in 2008-2009, he said.

“The faculty in many discussions talked about and ultimately made decisions about directions they would like to see the law school move toward,” Houdek said. “In a way, the game plan has been designed by the faculty. I will do my best within available resources to implement as many of those decisions as I can, or at least prepare the law school to take the next steps toward implementation.”

A key emphasis during the self-study process was on devising ways to incorporate more experiential, or hands-on, practical opportunities into the school’s program of legal education. Houdek noted that the while the law school has had a “very substantial and significant clinical program” for many years, the faculty hopes to provide more experiential learning opportunities in the law school’s traditional courses as well.

Two “semester away” programs for students will start with the upcoming 2009-2010 academic year, where students spend a semester living and working in different locations. The program will be available for second- and third-year law school students, with an emphasis on third-year students.

Under the guidance of Professor William Schroeder, students this fall will extern with the Missouri public defender’s office in southeast Missouri. In the spring, under the guidance of Associate Professor Thomas C. Britton, students in the program will have the opportunity to work in Springfield with a focus on state and local government.

A Los Angeles native, Houdek, 60, earned his law degree from the UCLA School of Law in 1974 and a master’s in library science there in 1976. Houdek received his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1971, also at UCLA.

He began as a reference librarian in 1975 at the Los Angeles County Law Library in Los Angeles, which at the time was about the third largest law library in the United States. From July 1979 to June 1982, Houdek was librarian with Lawler, Felix and Hall, managing the library for a firm of about 75 attorneys. In July 1982, he began work as associate director of the law library and as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Southern California.

Houdek and his wife, Susan E. Tulis, an associate for dean for library affairs at SIUC’s Morris Library, live in Carbondale. The couple has four children.

There will be an internal search within the law school for an interim associate dean of academic affairs. Houdek anticipates filling the position within several weeks.

The law school’s dean search committee includes both faculty and law school alumni. Rice said the University will conduct a national search. The application deadline is this fall, with the hope of naming a new dean in early winter. The anticipation is a new permanent dean will be in place by July 1, 2010, Rice said.

Professor W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law, is committee chair pro tem. The committee plans to hold its first meeting in early August, prior to the beginning of the fall semester.