Texas A&M completes acquisition of Fort Worth law school

Texas A&M University
POSTED: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 4:45pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 9:18pm

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp announced today that Texas A&M University has acquired all operational aspects of the Fort Worth law school that is currently part of Texas Wesleyan University and has authorized the start of classes there Monday, Aug. 19 under the name of the “Texas A&M University School of Law.”

Under preliminary planning between Texas A&M and Texas Wesleyan officials, the concept was to enter into a “strategic partnership,” but subsequent talks led to an agreement whereby Texas A&M would pay Texas Wesleyan $73.2 million and become the sole proprietor of the school with an option to purchase the property where the school is located, noted Sharp.

“In creating the Texas A&M University School of Law, we are finally expanding the Texas A&M brand into the field of law with a focus on new areas of growth like patents and commercialization," Sharp said. “This long-sought entry into the field of law by the state’s first public institution of higher learning, with its land-grant university perspective for innovative service to the public, will have a profound impact on the future of Texas.”

Sharp was joined in making the announcement by Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, Texas Wesleyan President Frederick G. Slabach, Texas A&M Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Karan Watson and Interim Law School Dean and Professor of Law Aric Short.

Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin joined in praising the acquisition and emphasized it addresses one of the key elements of the university’s “Vision 2020” long-range plan to become one of the nation’s top 10 public universities by the year 2020.

“Expanding Texas A&M’s graduate professional programs is one of the key tenets of Vision 2020,” Loftin noted, pointing out that most of the nation’s top universities —Texas A&M’s peer institutions— have law schools.

“We see today’s announcement as the next step in Texas A&M’s dramatic evolution from its beginnings as a regional, military-focused institution into one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious comprehensive universities in the short time span of four decades.”

Texas Wesleyan President Frederick G. Slabach said Texas A&M’s acquisition of the 24-year-old law school is a significant step in the right direction toward fulfilling the following institutional priorities: developing its law school into a first tier academic entity, allowing it to focus on the transformative efforts underway to revitalize its home in East Fort Worth and allowing Texas Wesleyan to better provide a small-school experience where its students can truly thrive.

“We said we would be thorough in accomplishing these aims, and today, we’re happy to announce that those aims are becoming a reality,” Slabach said. “We believe this agreement will enhance the educational experience at both the School of Law and at our historic campus.

Texas A&M Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Karan Watson, to whom the Dean of the law school will report, has indicated that last week (Aug. 9) the university received final review by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Council of the Section on Legal Education, whereby ABA acquiesced to the law school’s application for a major change in its organizational structure. This acquiescence and previous approvals by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for substantive change, as well as by The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has allowed the transition to move forward.

“We’re extremely pleased by the support received throughout this process,” Watson said, “and we look forward to a smooth transition that both ensures our law programs retain accreditation and that the experience is beneficial to all concerned—especially the students, faculty and staff.”

“This is an historic and exciting time for our law school as we transition to become Texas A&M University School of Law,” Interim Dean Aric Short said. “In our short history, we have developed a tradition of academic excellence by focusing on student-centered learning. In the coming days, we look forward to developing new educational opportunities that will complement and build on the strengths and core values that make Texas A&M University so unique and successful. We believe the future is bright for our students, alumni, faculty, staff and Fort Worth community.”

Under provisions of the agreement authorized by the A&M System Board of Regents, the institution has paid Texas Wesleyan $30 million and will pay the remaining 43.2 million annually from 2014 to 2017.

“This is a transformative time in the history of Texas Wesleyan University. With the monumental impact of the Rosedale Renaissance in east Fort Worth, as well as successful marketing campaign that has significantly raised our profile in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, this is the beginning of a new era for both the School of Law, Texas A&M, the City of Fort Worth, the North Texas Legal Community and for Texas Wesleyan,” Slabach added.

The two institutions also entered into a five-year “triple net” lease regarding the property on which the law school is situated, meaning the university will pay $1.4 million the first year, $1.7 million annually for four years ($6.8 million), $6 million annually for 4 years ($24 million) and a final payment of $11 million in 2017.

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