UNIVERSITY PARK – Stephen S. Dunham has been named vice president and general counsel for Penn State, pending approval by the Board of Trustees at its July meeting. He will take over for Cynthia Baldwin, who agreed to establish the office and serve on a transitional basis.
As vice president and general counsel, Dunham will head the University’s legal office, which includes locations at University Park and Hershey. The office provides advice to the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty and staff regarding any legal matters affecting the University. It also coordinates and monitors legal actions with outside counsel; reviews and participates in the formulation of University policies; assists in developing and interpreting rules and guidelines concerning University activities affecting compliance with federal and state laws and regulations; prepares and reviews legal documents, including contracts and licensing agreements; and collaborates with the University’s Risk Management Office and the Affirmative Action Office.
“I have long thought that being the general counsel for a major research university is the best legal job in the country, and Penn State is a major research university with attributes that make it particularly attractive, including its academic excellence, land grant status, Division I athletics, major academic medical center, law school, and its international scope and reputation as a school with a strong future,” said Dunham.
President Rodney Erickson cited Dunham’s breadth of experience and expertise in higher education as key factors in his appointment. “Steve’s practice has included diverse topics including intellectual property, higher education issues, employment litigation and counseling, accounting disputes and general commercial litigation. His practice has been in both state and federal courts, and he has provided legal services to numerous universities and higher education associations. That experience is an asset for us as we move forward in dealing with the issues before us currently,” he said.
“Wise counsel. Skilled representation. Magnificent leadership. Absolute integrity. We at Johns Hopkins have come to place unqualified reliance on Steve Dunham for these and for so much more,” said Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins. “Steve is probably the most highly respected university attorney in the United States today. I deeply regret the loss to Johns Hopkins – and to me – of such an outstanding colleague, adviser and university citizen. At the same time, however, I am pleased for Steve that he will be able to bring his considerable intelligence, skill and abilities to the service of such an important sister institution.”
Dunham has worked on a number of high-profile matters that involve the intersection of law, reputation, risk management, the press and government investigations. “I recognize the serious nature of the matters Penn State faces, and I hope that the combination of my private-practice background and experience representing colleges and universities will be a good balance for the needs of the University,” he said.
Dunham graduated from Princeton University in 1966 and from Yale Law School in 1969. He comes to Penn State from Johns Hopkins University, where he has been vice president and general counsel since 2005. Dunham began his legal career in San Francisco, where he joined the law firm of Morrison and Foerster in 1972. He joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School in 1979 and became general counsel and then vice president and general counsel for the period 1982-88. He rejoined Morrison and Foerster in its Denver office in 1988 and specialized in litigation and higher education law. He also served for several years as a managing partner and then chair of the 1,000-lawyer firm.
Dunham has been a member of the California, Minnesota and Colorado bars and currently is a member of the Maryland bar. He has taught courses in professional responsibility at the University of Denver College of Law and has been an instructor at various state and national programs of continuing legal education. Dunham also has been chair of the California State Bar Special Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, a member of the Board of Directors and a Fellow of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, a director of the American Judicature Society and chair of the executive committee of the Colorado Lawyers’ Committee.
Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, headed the search committee charged in January 2012 with finding the new general counsel from a national pool of candidates.
Annemarie Mountz, Penn State University