John Pierre selected as new Southern University Law Center chancellor _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PAM BORDELON --- Stepping down --- On hand to honor retiring Southern University Law Center Chancellor Freddie Pitcher, seated center, are, seated from left, daughter Kyla Pitcher and wife Harriet Pitcher; and, standing, Dennis Blunt, Rachel Emanuel, John Pierre, Luke Lavergne, Chris Hebert, Vernon Willis, Tonya Freeman, John Davies, Paul Arrigo and Dwayne Murray.

The newest chancellor of the Southern University Law Center is John K. Pierre, a vice chancellor of the school who has been serving as the interim chancellor in recent months.

Pierre bested three other finalists for the job. Two of them also were vice chancellors at the state’s only historically black law school, and the third was a well-known state appellate judge, John Michael Guidry, who also previously served as a Louisiana legislator.

The other internal candidates were Russell Jones, vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Roederick White Sr., vice chancellor for student affairs.

After the Southern University Board of Supervisors interviewed all four candidates on Friday, system President Ray Belton recommended Pierre.

“I am happy to recommend John Pierre, who is ably prepared to lead the SU Law Center,” Belton said. Board member Tony Clayton asked the board to also consider White. But a vote for him only yielded two votes out of 16.

The board then considered Pierre and approved him unanimously. No other candidate was voted on.

Pierre choked up when thanking the board for the opportunity.

“I will work very, very hard to propel the Southern University Law Center forward to be the institution that you all want it to be,” he said.

Pierre, who will be the seventh chancellor of the law school, has been on the faculty since 1990 and was promoted to associate vice chancellor in 2003. He was appointed to serve as interim chancellor in July after former Chancellor Freddie Pitcher Jr. stepped down from the post.

For seven years, he was involved in the Baton Rouge school system desegregation case, representing the Baton Rouge NAACP.

In the interviews, the four candidates spoke about the challenges facing the law school, including declining enrollment and the loss of state funds for the university.

Pierre said he’d like to see the law center expand its reach across the state.

He said legal education is concentrated in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and suggested that Shreveport was an area that was ripe for Southern to expand to.

“It’s a logical place to really think about an expansion,” Pierre said. “Not a traditional law school that competes with the Baton Rouge law center but a nontraditional center with part-time, evening and weekend services.”

Pierre also was emphatic in crediting the law center with providing Louisiana with a diverse legal system.

“We are a powerful institution, and we have a significant impact to the state of Louisiana,” Pierre said. “We have changed the landscape of legal education in the state of Louisiana and America.”

He added that Louisiana leads the nation in the number of black judges per capita, “and that is strictly due to the Southern University Law Center.”

Pierre was the favorite candidate among some 227 students who were surveyed a few weeks back when there were still six semifinalists.

However, in a faculty survey taken last month gauging approval of the same six candidates, Pierre came in last.

Pierre’s effective start date and salary will be negotiated between him and Belton.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.