The Catholic University of America

 

The CUA Law Community Celebrates the Deanship of Veryl Miles

 

Her final day as dean isn’t until June 30, but the CUA law school community took advantage of a brief pre-finals window on April 21 to say farewell and thank you to Dean Veryl Miles for seven years of exceptional service, and to celebrate her many accomplishments in the job.
 
Hundreds of well-wishers including family and friends, colleagues, alumni, and staff gathered on a rainy Saturday evening to pay tribute to the dean as her service draws to a close by mid-summer.
 
Appointed in 2005 as the first female and African-American dean in the history of the Columbus School of Law, Dean Miles assumed the office with an ambitious list of goals.
 
With patience, foresight, and persistence, a great many objectives were achieved, including strengthening the academic curriculum, improving bar passage rates, and helping to raise the law school’s national profile and visibility within the legal profession and the public at large.
 
The eight speakers featured in the program also noted that some of the dean’s greatest feats were intangible, measured by morale, cohesion, and a sense of shared community.
 
“She promoted dialogue between different, sometimes conflicting perspectives within the school…She created what Plato might have called a just environment for studying law,” said Catholic University President John Garvey, who is also a member of the law school faculty. “She has set an example for our faculty and for our students for the kind of citizen a good lawyer ought to be.”
 
University Provost James Brennan commended her for never letting anyone forget about the special place CUA Law holds in legal education.
 
“The rationale for having a law school at this, The Catholic University of America, remains clear and focused. It’s our brand, and it has been her constant and consistent gift to this academic community to remind us of this heritage,” said Brennan.
 
These days, seven years may be considered a longer tenure in the often difficult position of serving as dean of a law school.

“Veryl is the face of the Columbus School of Law for many outside of the law school,” observed Professor Kathryn Kelly, who spoke on behalf on the faculty.
 
“It’s been said of Ginger Rogers that she danced every step Fred Astaire did, and backwards, and in high heels,” Kelly continued. “Veryl has worked through the challenges every other dean of a law school does, and did it elegantly, and in high heels.”
 
The tone of the evening was by turns funny, sentimental, nostalgic, cheerful, and at times, a little bit sad. Stories were told, triumphs recounted, and best wishes expressed.
 
Dean Miles, an enthusiastic gardener, was presented with a beautiful outdoor sundial (above) from the law school to adorn her property.
 
Professor George Garvey, associate dean for academic affairs, quoted St. Thomas More: “Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or an ability—that's training or instruction—but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed.”  
 
“Veryl Miles helps her students, friends, and colleagues, to see the hidden seeds, and she taught us all how to nurture them,” said Garvey.
 
With her husband Jacob at her side, Dean Miles sat quietly though the tributes until her own turn came to speak. A 1980 alumna of the Columbus School of Law, the dean recounted her first contact with it as a student nearly 35 years ago. She was struck quickly by the special aura of the place, she told the audience.  
 
“It is a bountiful table. It’s a family table. We share in the nourishment. We serve one another. And there’s a place for every member of the family at that table.”
 
Dean Miles will begin a year’s sabbatical upon the conclusion of her deanship, and then rejoin the faculty as a professor. The law school’s official farewell was among a number of ceremonies held in her honor in recent days. She was among the honorees at the 2012 John Carroll Society Awards Dinner earlier in the month, and the CUA School of Music staged a special concert in her honor on the evening of April 23.
 
Reflecting upon her seven years of service, she spoke from the heart to friends, family, colleagues, staff, students and alumni.
 
“You have made me full. My heart is so full from the nourishment, from the bounty of the CUA law school family,” said Miles.