UK's new law school dean cites 'great raw product'

The new dean of the University of Kentucky's College of Law showed up in person to see the university's board of trustees unanimously confirm his appointment.

"I am very thrilled to be here at the University of Kentucky," the new dean, David A. Brennen, told trustees in brief remarks. "There are some interesting challenges, but I think I have some great raw product to work with."

He said he was attracted to the job by "outstanding students" and specifically cited the team that placed second in last month's American College of Trial Lawyers national trial competition.

Brennen, who has specialized in teaching tax law at the University of Georgia since 2006, is deputy director of the Association of American Law Schools. He will take over as UK law dean July 1.

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. cited the hire of Brennen and new Markey Cancer Center director B. Mark Evers as the most recent boost to the university.

During a 30-minute presentation about his seven-year tenure, Todd outlined the university's successes in research spending, student retention rates and a record high graduation rate.

But he said UK has yet to reach the big prize: Top 20 status.

"The Top 20 goal is still the one that hangs out there for us," he said, adding that state funding and support is key to achieve it.

Also at Tuesday's meeting:

■ Trustees signed off on UK's mid-year budget revision, in which the administration is cutting $6.3 million because the state slashed public university funding by 2 percent. Academic areas were spared cuts in this round.

■ Frank Butler, the executive vice president for finance and administration, said UK has been hammered by the falling stock market. Investments — primarily in the university's endowment — are at $822 million, down $254 million from last year. That's more bad news as UK officials prepare the 2010 budget, which will be presented to trustees in June.

■ The board approved a $2 million project to convert space in the M.I. King Library into chemistry and physics labs and a computer lab.

■ Trustees gave the go-ahead on a $2.2 million construction of a 1.85-acre children's garden in The Arboretum. The project will be financed by private donations and will be built in phases.