Dean Treanor Recounts His Personal Journey

September 10, 2014 —

A few things you didn’t know about Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor: He once considered medical school as a career path. He ended up majoring in history and African American studies at Yale — and then weighed the possibility of going to graduate school in history. He even thought about the priesthood. 

But growing up in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, Treanor observed that many of the people who were making a difference were lawyers, like Thurgood Marshall. And when he read Go East, Young Man, the autobiography of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, the decision was clear. 

“It gave me a model for the kind of career that I thought that I would follow,” Treanor told Father Paul Rourke, S.J.,  and a roomful of Hoya law students in the Gewirz Student Center on September 9. “[It] convinced me that the combination of law and teaching was the best path for me.”

The discussion was the first in this fall’s “Personal Journeys” Faculty Interview Series, which is designed to offer students a closer look at the lives of the Georgetown Law faculty. Treanor — who did earn a Ph.D. in history at Harvard in 2010 — will be teaching a Legal Justice Seminar and an Advanced Constitutional Law Seminar this year in addition to serving as dean. 

“As an educator, one of the things that’s important to me is the well-being of students,” Treanor responded, when asked by Rourke what has driven him to do all that he’s done, including education, scholarship and public service. “We think of success in terms of career goals, and that’s important, but that’s only part of what success is about. … It’s ultimately the people whose lives you touch and your relationships with them.”

Treanor reminded students that no one has a career of unmitigated successes. His own challenge came when he spent four years in the Office of the Iran Contra Independent Counsel only to see the conviction of Oliver North overturned. “It was an attempt to vindicate the rule of law, and you did the best you could. Accept that sometimes it is going to fail.”

On the issue of work-life balance, Treanor admitted that he doesn’t have much time for hobbies. He makes time for his family, though, and his faith. “The people around you are so crucial to your success,” he said, reminding students to value the friendships they make in law school and be grateful for those who helped them get there. “As smart as you are and as dedicated as you are, it’s also about people opening doors for you, and helping you out along the way.”

The event was sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students and Campus Ministry.

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