SMU names new VP for Legal Affairs

Paul WardPaul Ward, vice president for university administration and general counsel at Arizona State University, has been named SMU’s vice president for legal affairs, general counsel and secretary to the Board of Trustees, effective Jan. 1, 2009.

Ward received his J.D. degree from the SMU School of Law in 1975. He has been admitted to practice law in Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Indiana, the District of Columbia and the United States Supreme Court. He succeeds Leon Bennett, SMU’s vice president for legal affairs and governmental relations, general counsel and secretary to the Board of Trustees. Bennett has been with the University since 1983 and will retire Dec. 31, 2008.

At SMU, Ward will oversee legal services to the University, including the supervision of three staff attorneys, and selection and management of outside counsel. Additionally, as Secretary to the Board of Trustees, he will work closely with the president and senior administrative officers in coordinating the Board’s activities.

“We are pleased to welcome Paul Ward to SMU,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “As an SMU law alumnus, he knows the University, and his extensive background in legal affairs at other universities gives him the knowledge and experience to lead SMU’s legal affairs division.”

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General Counsel Leon Bennett to retire at end of 2008

Leon BennettS. Leon Bennett, SMU’s General Counsel, Vice President for Legal Affairs and Government Relations, and Secretary to the Board of Trustees, will retire from the University effective Dec. 31, 2008. Bennett will work on special projects for SMU during the summer and fall.

In a letter to the SMU community, President R. Gerald Turner wrote, “For 25 years, Leon has led SMU’s Office of Legal Affairs during a time in which legal issues affecting colleges and universities have grown in number and complexity. Typically working behind the scenes, he has handled challenging and sensitive issues with professionalism, discretion and wisdom. As Secretary to the Board of Trustees, he has supported the work of the Board through its restructuring in the late 1980s and continued refinements for greater organizational efficiency.

“As the University has worked to implement its Centennial Master Plan for campus development, Leon has been instrumental in facilitating SMU’s acquisition of nearby property, working closely with the cities of University Park, Highland Park and Dallas on development issues. He has built important relationships as well with the Texas legislature, the U.S. Congress and government agencies on public policy issues affecting higher education in general and SMU in particular. Most recently, he played a critical role in preparations and negotiations for the George W. Bush Presidential Library, helping to craft the detailed and historic documents of SMU’s agreement with the Bush Foundation.

“In all areas of his leadership, Leon’s primary concern has been representing the University’s best interests. Looking at the span of his service – from 1983 to the present – it is not difficult to imagine the range of activity, adaptations, growth and challenges that SMU has experienced. Leon has been there every step of the way as attorney, vice president, corporate officer and trusted colleague.

“I know you will join me in thanking Leon and wishing him well.”