Skip to Main Content

Search Results


Dean andré cummings sitting on a bench outside of the administration building.

Q&A with the new dean

Widener University Commonwealth Law School welcomed andré douglas pond cummings as its new dean June 1. He came to Harrisburg from University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law, where he was associate dean for faculty development and the Charles C. Baum distinguished professor of law.

A decorated faculty member who received the 2023 faculty award for excellence in social justice and the 2024 faculty excellence award in research and creative endeavors at Bowen Law, cummings is an inclusive leader with an array of legal expertise. He has taught classes in contracts, business associations, civil procedure, corporate justice, sports law, hip hop and the American Constitution, policing and the use of force, progressive prosecution, and entertainment law.  As dean of Widener Law Commonwealth, he will support and expand the culture of belonging that is inherent across Widener University, while leading all aspects of the law school from academics to operations to community engagement and fundraising.

What drew you to Widener Law Commonwealth?

My closest friend and comrade, Todd Clark became dean of Widener University Delaware Law School in 2023. Since then, he has only had extremely positive things to say about Widener University, President Stacey Robertson, Provost Andy Workman and the excellent faculty, staff, and students at Delaware Law. When the Widener Law Commonwealth dean job came open,  Todd nominated me for the position and strongly encouraged me to consider interviewing. In addition, I am very familiar with the excellent faculty and tradition at Widener Law Commonwealth where I count several faculty as long-time friends. I have visited Harrisburg numerous times, both as a visiting scholar and speaker and as a younger man visiting Hershey with family. I am honored to have been chosen  to lead Widener Law Commonwealth into the future. I could not be more enthusiastic about this opportunity.  

You’ve had a fascinating career involving a number of areas of the law. What called you to become a lawyer, and then to work in legal education?

Having grown up in Los Angeles, the LA riots of 1992 deeply impacted me as a young man. When Rodney King was badly beaten by Los Angeles police officers and then those same officers were found not guilty of using excessive force, I watched my beloved hometown set ablaze during the infamous riots. I remember driving through smoke and ash to get to work and later joining efforts with my family to rebuild LA in the aftermath.  That is probably the moment I first realized that societal inequality, police brutality, and racial discrimination needed to be addressed and remedied in our nation. That experience inspired me to major in sociology in college, attend Howard University School of Law, and devote my entire career focus to ending racial inequality and promoting economic and social equality for all.  

Becoming a law professor was another matter. Following law school and after working as a judicial law clerk, I was busily employed as a corporate lawyer focused on economic opportunity in Chicago at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. Out of the blue, one of my law school professors and mentors called me and asked whether I would be interested in applying to become a law school professor. I held my Howard Law professors in such high esteem that before that call, I had never imagined myself as a law school professor. This mentor saw something in me that I had not yet seen in myself. She strongly encouraged me to apply through the law school professor database and I followed her advice. Unbelievably, Syracuse University College of Law called, interviewed me, and offered a position as a visiting assistant professor. Thereafter, I have been blessed to work in legal education at multiple outstanding schools around the country, and even the world, given my time with Temple University Japan campus law school. I have been blessed to teach the subject matter that is important and critical to me revolving around social justice and equality, as well as write books and articles about the ways the law should change to ensure equal opportunity for all.

You’ve written extensively on racial and social justice, and you co-directed the Center for Racial Justice and Criminal Justice Reform at Bowen Law. Tell us about your commitment to these principles.

From a young age, I have felt very strongly that all Americans and all human beings should have equal opportunity to achieve an education and pursue their dreams. All barriers to equal opportunity that have been erected in law and culture must be brought down and eradicated so that all people can pursue their goals unencumbered. While in law school, we were reminded often of the great Charles Hamilton Houston who famously stated that lawyers are either a “social engineer” or a “parasite on society.” I believe deeply that all attorneys have an opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless and to lift up those who have been historically discriminated against and harmed. The J.D. provides an opportunity to improve one’s own condition and to improve the condition of their families, communities, and those in need. The law can provide solutions to the inequality issues that continue to vex our nation.  

Who has been your biggest role model – either in your career or your personal life?

I love this question. My professional role models are all three judges, including the iconic Thurgood Marshall, the pioneering Joseph W. Hatchett and the first-of-her-generation Christine M. Durham. Thurgood Marshall’s career as an NAACP lawyer who orchestrated the Brown v. Board of Education litigation strategy to defeat once and for all “separate but equal” in this country and spell the end of Jim Crow, has been an inspiration to me since I entered the hallowed halls of Howard Law School, where Justice Marshall attended. As the first black American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, he paved the trail for so many by breaking down barriers and working to end inequality in the United States. Judge Hatchett and Justice Durham are both judges I was blessed to work for as a judicial clerk following law school. I learned so much from Judge Hatchett (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, first African American judge on that court) and from Justice Durham (Utah Supreme Court, first female judge on that court) that to this day I still try to model my demeanor, ethics, heart for service and kindness and respect for others after them, including those with whom I disagree, even vociferously.  

My personal role models must include my parents, Robert and Lynne Cummings. While both have passed away, I have to attribute my frenetic work ethic to my mother, who until the day she died far too young, accomplished so much good in this world, usually through making lists, persevering, and doing kind and compassionate acts of service for others daily.  My father imbued in me a deeply religious perspective anchored in love and kindness toward all people regardless of station, race, gender, or orientation. Finally, my partner Lavinia and our babies, Cole (21), Malia (16) and Maxwell (13) are a constant source of inspiration and joy for me.  

We noticed you use lower-case letters in the legal spelling of your name. What inspired you to make that choice?

As a high school student in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to take an AP Literature class at my school, Narbonne High, in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We read the work of poet ee cummings and black American female feminist writer bell hooks. Neither of these gifted writers capitalized their names and ee cummings was so unconventional, he did not capitalize much of his poetry or even use punctuation. I was so inspired by the bold refusal of these writers to follow tradition and established norms and rules and their willingness to buck convention and color outside the lines, that I very soon thereafter changed my name legally to all lower-case letters. My name stands today as an homage to bell hooks and ee cummings, while also stating a willingness to follow a nontraditional path.

Law is a notoriously demanding profession, and law deans can have exhaustive schedules. How do you like to relax in your free time?

Whether or not this is relaxing, I do work out every day, running, hitting the gym, playing basketball and tennis, and putting in the work. I enjoy a well-written motion picture or television series, and of course, when my Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Dodgers, or U.S.C Trojans are playing and winning, I am riveted. My family loves an exciting adventure, whether it is traveling abroad, riding a wild roller coaster, visiting an art gallery in Sedona or a medina in Marrakesh. 


Facebook Logo       Twitter Logo       Instagram Logo       LinkedIn Logo

Podcast Logo