The man credited with bringing growth and inclusiveness to Villanova University’s law school died at age 90 on Dec. 22 at his home in Wayne, writes Thomas Fitzgerald for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
J. Willard O’Brien was the law school’s second dean, appointed at age 42, serving from 1972 to 1983.
Under his guidance, the law school hired more professors to drive down the student-to-faculty ratio, increased faculty pay and prioritized women and people of color for teaching positions.
Though a demanding torts professor during his time teaching law at Syracuse and Villanova universities, he earned respect for his ability to listen to people and navigate academic politics.
“His days on earth have ended, but his legacy and spirit remain in our community,” said Mark Alexander, dean of what is now known as the Charles Widger School of Law.
O’Brien served as an intelligence officer for the Air Force and received his law degree in 1957 from Fordham University.
He worked for a Wall Street firm before becoming a law professor.
O’Brien was determined to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds “prosper equally” in the profession.
Read more about the life of J. Willard O’Brien at The Philadelphia Inquirer.