Schools and Colleges

College of Law Dean Craig Boise described as the ‘most interesting man in the world’

Fiona Lenz | Contributing Photographer

As dean Craig Boise wants to stabilize the law school financially, grow diversity, broaden education into new territory and increase bar exam passage rate and job placements.

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is friends describe him as the closest a real person could come to being James Bond.

Syracuse University College of Law Dean Craig Boise is a man of many talents. When he meets someone for the first time, odds are it’ll take that person a while to discover his collection of talents — he’s a skilled classical pianist, scuba diver, sailor, motorcyclist, corporate international tax law guru, salsa dancer, world traveler and a former SWAT team member whose roots lie in small-town Missouri.

“I don’t think there are many deans who have kicked down doors on drug busts and also played classical piano,” said Andrew Morriss, law school dean at Texas A&M University and Boise’s longtime friend and colleague. “He’s kind of like the most interesting man in the world from the tequila commercials.”

Boise began his post in July after coming to SU from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University, where he was also dean. During his deanship, Boise’s main goals are to stabilize the law school financially during what has been a rough patch for law schools nationally, increase the school’s diversity, broaden the school’s education into new territory and increase students’ bar exam passage rate and job placements.

I don’t think there are many deans who have kicked down doors on drug busts and also played classical piano.
Andrew Morriss, law school dean at Texas A&M University and Boise’s longtime friend and colleague

“The legal profession has undergone enormous changes in the past decades, and in order for us to produce the most competent and socially conscious attorneys, it’s important for us to have someone like Dean Boise,” SU law professor Aviva Abramovsky said. “It’s a big world out there, and he’s making it possible for our students to gain entry into it.”

Craig Nard, one of Boise’s close friends and a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said Boise’s eclectic background and interests are advantageous to him as a dean. They give him the power to navigate multiple settings and interact with all types of people with grace and ease, Nard said.

Boise has had an untraditional path to his career. Coming from an agricultural background, he grew up working summers at a family farm in Nebraska and served as treasurer of his high school’s Future Farmers of America chapter. His graduating class only had 68 students.

Coming from a family and town of farmers, Boise initially didn’t see college in the cards for himself. But when he was offered a scholarship to study classical piano at University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, he took a leap of faith and changed gears.

Because he ultimately could only afford two years of school, Boise left the university to pursue a variety of careers. He earned his real estate license and then chose to enter the police force in Kansas City, where he worked from 1986 to 1991.

fionalenz_deanboise2
Fiona Lenz | Contributing Photographer

Learning about Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment cases during his time at the police academy piqued Boise’s interest in the law. While working for the police department, Boise returned to school to get his bachelor’s degree, this time in political science. One of his professors, who served as a mentor, encouraged him to apply to law school, and soon enough Boise was studying for the LSAT with a flashlight in a police car during stakeouts.

Boise attended University of Chicago Law School, where he became interested in tax law. He practiced law for nine years, working for a firm in Kansas City, and later a couple in New York City, before he kick-started his teaching career.

He first taught tax law at Florida State University at his friend’s request, then taught at Case Western Reserve University for six years, worked as the director of DePaul University’s tax law program for two years and then worked as dean at Cleveland State University’s law school for five years.

And then he came to Syracuse.

Boise wasn’t looking for a change when he came across the opportunity of the law school deanship, but he said a major attracting point was SU Chancellor Kent Syverud, a former law school dean whom Boise had met before.

“That was the first thing that intrigued me about the opportunity,” Boise said. “I knew that a chancellor who understood legal education is a really valuable thing to have if you’re a dean of a college of law within a university.”

In turn, at Boise’s inaugural address in April, Syverud cited Boise’s accomplishments at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law as the reason he is fit to lead the law school. Among those achievements during his tenure are the school climbing the rankings from 135 to 106, the bar passage rate rising to 93 percent — the highest in the law school’s history — and the creation of a counterterrorism and privacy institute.

The first rule of attracting diversity is that you’ve really got to be focused on it — you’ve got to make that a high level priority,
Craig Boise

Boise has already begun taking steps to achieve his goal of increasing diversity. He’s working to develop three-plus-three programs with historically black universities and colleges. These programs offer undergraduates three years to get their bachelor’s degree at a historically black college or university and an additional three to get their law degrees at SU.

Boise also plans on recruiting students from the Black Law Students Association’s undergraduate organizations and through exposing high school mock trial competitors to SU.

“The first rule of attracting diversity is that you’ve really got to be focused on it — you’ve got to make that a high level priority,” Boise said. “I think there are a number of ways we do that.”

Boise’s strategy in making a positive change as dean is analogous to his strategy in life: not one single path, one single way, but many.

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