The Association of American Law Schools announced its selection of UC Davis Dean Kevin R. Johnson as the recipient of a new national award for “outstanding leadership in diversity and mentoring in the legal academy,” given jointly by five sections of the association.
Johnson, law school dean since 2008, said he was “especially touched” by the award because its namesake, Michael A. Olivas, “was a friend, colleague and an important mentor to me.”
Olivas died in April of this year after what the association described as an illustrious career, most recently as the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law Emeritus at the University of Houston Law Center and as the director of the University of Houston’s Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance.
“He was a brilliant, prophetic scholar, and a risk-taking and pathbreaking advocate for underrepresented groups in the legal academy, and the world,” Johnson said. “I am extremely grateful to be the first recipient of the Michael A. Olivas Award.”
The Association of American Law Schools, founded in 1900 and comprising nearly 200 members, said it plans to present the award in-person Jan. 5 in San Diego during its annual meeting.
In establishing the Olivas award, the association’s sections on civil rights, education law, immigration law, minority groups and student services said it would be given annually to a faculty member who most vividly exemplifies the late scholar’s devotion to mentoring junior and aspiring faculty from underrepresented communities, and promoting diversity, inclusion and equity in the legal academy.
During Johnson’s time as dean, the School of Law has drawn national accolades for its majority-minority faculty and overall emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. The Racial Justice Speaker Series, established in 2020, features leading scholars from throughout the country.
“For decades, Dean Kevin Johnson has exemplified Michael Olivas’ dedication to uplifting the next generation of diverse leaders in legal education,” said Anthony Varona, dean and professor at the University of Seattle School of Law, chair of the Olivas Award Selection Committee.
“The selection committee received many compelling nominations,” Varona said. “But this year, the award’s inaugural year, the selection committee was unanimous in our agreement with his many nominators that there is no one more deserving of the first Olivas award than Dean Kevin Johnson. I know that Michael himself would have cheered this selection.”
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