Adrienne G., rising 3L
Last year, I was always glad that I was in A section, except for the single fact that B section got Mengler for Civ Pro. Not that I didn’t love Professor Sisk… (who doesn’t?) but the B-sectioners always had good stories from Dean Mengler’s class, and they seemed to genuinely enjoy having the Dean for a professor. This past summer, I decided to take part in the Rome program offered by UST and Villanova. I would have gone anyway (summer of unpaid legal research v. Italy? No-brainer) but I was really excited when I found out that Dean Mengler was going, too. So excited, in fact, and so determined to take a class with him that I immediately signed up for Complex Litigation in the United States and Abroad. I took it despite the fact that most of my friends were taking Professional Responsibility with Professor Hamilton, and despite the fact that the name of the class sort of made me cringe.
Well, complex litigation is still not really my thing– in the U.S. or abroad– but I’m so glad that I took the opportunity when I had the chance. Because after a decade of dedicated service to the law school, Dean Mengler is leaving us for the warmer, wider open spaces of Texas as President of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
Dean Thomas Mengler defines the mission of the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He has lived and worked it for the past ten years as our dean, and I have no doubt that he will continue to do so after he’s no longer here. He’s open, friendly, cheerful, thoughtful, and committed to everything St. Thomas and its Catholic identity stand for: service. Dean Mengler is a servant leader. But I don’t have to describe all of that. Because if you’re remotely affiliated with the law school you’ve probably met him—at a St. Thomas event, in class or just walking around school—and if you have then you already know.
My favorite part about taking a class with the Dean was his obvious desire to learn about and share the things he loved with us so that we could appreciate them too. Sometimes that was complex litigation. But the best part was the beginning of every class when he’d take out his Italy guidebook and read a little something for us about a saint or a landmark or something else he’d investigated and wanted to recommend, or something he just found interesting and wanted to tell us about. I loved that.
Dean Mengler is lauded as a master fundraiser and law school leader and organizer or whatever it is that deans do. I’m sure he’s great at his job, and in that way I’m sure he’s had a significant impact on my life at St. Thomas. But that’s not what I’ll remember him for. I’ll remember him because he would always smile and say “hi” to me when I passed him in the hallway, even when he appeared to be having important conversations with important people. I’ll remember him because of that one morning that he offered to take anyone who could wake up early enough to Mass at the Vatican with him, and then out for coffee after. I’ll remember him for the time he and a couple of students snuck out in the middle of the swelteringly hot tour of the Italian Supreme Court and went to a shop and bought Cokes instead. I’ll remember him because of that time he joined a group of us at our favorite bar one of the last nights in Rome, and shared a giant mojito pitcher and some good conversation with us. I’ll remember him because he always came to Mass when our choir sang at school, and he’d always come up and tell us how much he enjoyed it afterwards.
We had a big event in the Atrium last week to send him off, complete with speeches and a dedication movie and a gift for him and his wife Mona. It was a beautiful event, an expression of gratitude from the law school to its Dean on his departure. But I’m not really writing about the event, because the event is not what’s important. It’s the person.
So thanks, Dean Mengler, for everything. For everything you’ve done for the school to make it what it was before my arrival here, for everything that has made it what it is now, and for everything that your hard work and shining example will do for it in the future. Thank you.
We love you, and we’ll miss you.