President announces dean’s exit
Ten years after Liberty University’s School of Law was established in 2004, University President Jerry Falwell announced that the law school’s dean, Mathew Staver, had chosen to resign his position.
The announcement of Staver’s resignation was not a surprise to Falwell or to those who had known Staver personally. According to Staver, he had discussed resigning with Falwell a couple of years prior and only stayed in Lynchburg as long as he did to ensure that the School of Law’s accreditation process was finished.
“It was the right thing to do, and it was the right timing,” Staver said. “Once we got the final report (about the law school being reaffirmed) … Oct. 16, I let President Falwell know, and he knew it was coming. We had been in communication.”
Staver’s decision to leave Lynchburg ties back to an accident that took place three years ago in which Staver’s wife, Anita, was injured in a car collision. After receiving treatment from the Mayo Clinic, Anita Staver continued to get worse physically and continued to have headaches and pain into 2013.
According to Staver, there was additional treatment his wife could get at the Mayo Clinic branches in Florida that she could not get in Lynchburg. This prompted their decision to move her to Orlando so she could be closer to the medical care she needed.
“That’s when I told President Falwell that I don’t know how long Anita’s (treatment) is going to be, but if it’s going to last for a longer period of time, then I won’t be able to go on as the dean,” Staver said. “But I wanted to get the law school through this final phase. If I had left at that time on the eve of this major accreditation reaffirmation, it would not have been good for the law school. So I stayed through that and was apart from her for many days throughout that 16-month period.”
Staver said the role of dean is a big component of the accreditation process, which is why he hesitated to leave the law school.
“If we had changed before or during, that would have delayed and complicated the application process,” Staver said. “(Falwell) was very supportive. I could have stayed as long as I wanted to, or I could have transitioned.”
According to Staver, his wife is currently working for the Liberty Counsel in Florida, though primarily from their home.
“The good news is that she’s begun to do better, definitely better than she was 16 months ago, but she still needs medical care that she’s able to get in Florida,” Staver said. “She’s been a real trooper. She hasn’t complained. She’s sacrificed a lot to get us through this. She’s looking forward to getting her husband back, and I’m looking forward to getting my wife back.”
Staver said that although he is stepping down as dean, he will still remain a consultant to the law school. He plans to devote more time to Liberty Counsel in Florida.
“On one hand, it is hard, because you have the emotions of leaving the people you love,” Staver said. “But the school is on the right track, and it’s in a great position to go into the next decade.”
Rena Lindevaldsen, who currently serves as the interim dean of the School of Law and has been a full-time faculty member since 2006, will fulfill Staver’s duties until a long-term replacement can be found. Staver leaves officially at the end of the semester.
“(Staver) came in at a time when we just gained our provisional accreditation,” Lindevaldsen said. “He had a platform that most people don’t have — a national platform.
And he did an amazing job of really getting our name out there and sharing the vision that Dr. Falwell had for this law school and what the current administration has for this law school. With his departure, we lose that in some respects.”
Janney is the asst. news editor.