168th Commencement: Watch Live
Penelope (Penny) Andrews started her term as Albany Law School's 17th President & Dean on July 1, 2012. She is the first female dean for the school since it opened in 1851.
Dean Andrews grew up in apartheid South Africa, fighting for equal rights. Her writing centers on justice for women and people of color across the globe, and she believes that all human struggles for dignity and equality are international in character. Asked about her passions, she cites the education of our future lawyers, where she sees it critical that a law school compels students to reach their highest potential.
She was chosen to be president and dean of Albany Law in part because, as she says, “I believe in what you are doing here, I have great faith in this school, and I genuinely admire the faculty.”
“The combination of location—a powerful state capital—and legacy—teaching students every year since 1851—makes Albany Law School special,” Dean Andrews told the faculty during an hour-long presentation earlier this year.
Dean Andrews came to Albany Law after serving as associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at the City University of New York School of Law.
“A new dean brings new excitement and a propensity for change, and we all have to take advantage of this special time for all levels of the school,” Dean Andrews said.
Born in apartheid South Africa, Dean Andrews attended and graduated Catholic school before studying law at the University of Natal.
She has since traveled the globe, living, teaching and researching in Germany, Australia, Holland, Scotland, Canada and South Africa. She has advocated for the rights of Australia’s indigenous population, people of color in South Africa, and disenfranchised women in Queens, N.Y.
An annual award in her name—The Penelope E. Andrews Human Rights Award—is given by the South African law school at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In 2005 she was a finalist for a vacancy on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the highest court on the country’s constitutional matters.
She has consulted for the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and for the Ford Foundation in Johannesburg, where she evaluated labor law programs. She earned her B.A. and LL.B. from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, and her LL.M. from Columbia University School of Law.
What initially lured her to the United States was the draw of the civil rights movement, “the way it challenged the underpinnings of American Society. I was struck by the dynamic leaders the movement generated.”
As a student activist in South Africa, this fueled her desire to go to the United States.
“The Civil Rights movement excited my views on the possibilities of law,” she said, which led her to Columbia University. She considered returning to South Africa to help the struggle against apartheid, but chose to avoid possible political persecution from its government.
She moved to Australia, where she gained citizenship, and tenure at La Trobe University, while supporting the indigenous population in their struggle for equality and to gain land rights.
“It taught me to understand new perspectives around race relations,” she said.
Dean Andrews left Australia in 1993 to teach at CUNY, where she continued her work incorporating human rights law into domestic constitutions, with a focus on Africa. She stayed at CUNY for 14 years, when she took the position of director of international studies at Valparaiso Law School. In 2010 she returned to CUNY for her academic dean position.
“What I’ve gained in my international teaching has been the facility to appreciate the similarities and differences in legal jurisdictions, while focusing on the strengths and lapses of the American legal system,” said Dean Andrews. “I have acquired a deep understanding of the cultural context of legal systems.”
“I’ve also developed a strong global network that will likely benefit Albany Law School.”