Susan Westerberg Prager
Dean Emerita | Professor of Law
A.B., 1964 and M.A., History, Stanford University, 1967
J.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1971
Member, California State Bar
A legal education trailblazer many times over, Susan Westerberg Prager served as Southwestern's 11th Dean and President for eight years from 2013 to 2021, and was the first woman in the history of the law school to serve in the post. She joined Southwestern in Fall 2013 following five years as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Dean Prager previously served in several leadership positions in higher education, including 16 years as Dean of UCLA School of Law.
"Southwestern is a remarkable place, with a rich tradition of making a difference in the futures of its students," Dean Prager said. "The law school's innovative and collaborative spirit is part of its DNA. The faculty and countless graduates are committed to helping today's students contribute to the complex and challenging worlds they will occupy as professionals. I feel privileged to have been asked to lead Southwestern Law School at this challenging and exciting time in legal education."
Early in her career, Dean Prager worked for California's senior U.S. Senator and minority whip Thomas Kuchel, Congressman Pete McCloskey, and California Assemblyman John Veneman from Modesto. She went on to complete her J.D. degree at UCLA School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the UCLA Law Review.
Dean Prager practiced law in North Carolina and then returned to her alma mater in 1972 as a member of the UCLA law faculty, teaching in the areas of community property, family law, wills and trusts, and historic preservation. When she was named Dean a decade later, she was the first female law dean in the University of California system and one of only two women serving in that capacity in the entire country. She served from 1982 to 1998, the longest tenure of any law dean in UCLA history, and was also the first UCLA graduate to serve in the post.
Dean Prager worked with the UCLA law faculty and university administration to strengthen the intellectual environment and operation of the law school. She cultivated a culture of excellence in both research and teaching, furthered diversity within the student body, and oversaw the appointment of dynamic new faculty and endowed chair holders. She enhanced the curriculum in areas such as international, environmental, public interest, entertainment and corporate law, and spearheaded the expansion of the clinical program. Her legacy includes two major building projects, the Clinical Wing and the Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library, as well as major advancements in technology, the launch of the law school's first major fundraising efforts, and the successful completion of one of the University of California's first major building project public-private partnerships. Upon her departure from the deanship, the law school established a named faculty chair in her honor.
While at UCLA, Dean Prager became the second woman ever elected as President of the AALS, and also served on the governing boards of the Law School Admission Council and the Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
In 1999, Dean Prager left the legal academy to pursue other opportunities in higher education, serving as Provost of Dartmouth College and as President of Occidental College in Los Angeles. In 2008, she was named Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the AALS, the nation's principal representative of America's law schools and the scholarly society of the law teaching profession. As the top administrator of the organization, she worked with the volunteer executive board and faculty committees in evaluating schools for membership and providing programs designed to enhance law deans, faculty and administrators' effectiveness, including the AALS Annual Meeting, the largest gathering of law professors in the world. Under her leadership, the AALS furthered its core values; brought issues of importance to law schools before legislative bodies, courts and administrative agencies; and influenced the debate over the standards for law school accreditation.
Dean Prager was a trustee of Stanford University for 14 years, and has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Pacific Mutual Holding Company (Pacific Life) since 1979, the Access Group (non-profit student loan corporation) and the American Council on Legal Education, and was a member of the California Commission on Campaign Financing and the California Community Colleges Commission on Innovation. An outspoken advocate for intellectual and racial diversity throughout her career, Dean Prager has counseled community groups and legislators and testified before congressional subcommittees in the affirmative action debate.
The recipient of the Los Angeles Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund's (MALDEF) 1997 Legal Services Award, Dean Prager was honored with the Los Angeles Israel Cancer Research Fund's Women of Action Award (1996), and the Madrina Award of the UCLA Latino Alumni Association (1998). On the occasion of the conclusion of her tenure as Dean, the UCLA Law Alumni Association presented her with its first Lifetime Achievement Award. She later received The Edward A. Dickson Award, the highest award of the greater UCLA Alumni Association.