The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'Lawyer of faith' breaks barriers

Nance is first African-American woman dean at the University of Arkansas

More than two dozen letters poured in to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in the days after the May 2006 announcement that Cynthia Nance would become dean of the School of Law.

They came from her former students, colleagues on various local and national bar association committees, even a university police officer. The provost, Bob Smith, said then that in six years of appointing more than 20 deans, he couldn’t remember “any greater number of positive expressions for a dean from a national set of constituencies.”

Cynthia Nance
Cynthia Nance
Nance, 49, is recognized even farther afield as an expert in labor and employment law. She has broken barriers, such as becoming the first African-American woman dean of a school or college at UA. Colleagues talk of her critical mind, her humble manner and her easy sense of humor.

She would like to be known as a “lawyer of faith,” and she is. Although many people aren’t familiar with her Lutheran roots or her service on the board of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Baltimore, they recognize personal guideposts of faith and a commitment to justice and public service. Even the secular institution where Nance works announced these qualities in its press release about her deanship, ahead of her degrees with honors and numerous professional awards.

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