Ceremony held in honor of newly retired dean

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Dean Phyllis Crocker (far right) with the unveiled portrait and a group of students including (left to right) Mackenzie Clark, Joseph Sams, Mariah Herfi and Maya Younis.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Mercy Law)


The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law recently celebrated the retirement of Dean Phyllis L. Crocker with a portrait unveiling.

Crocker became dean of Detroit Mercy Law in 2014. 

Following COVID-19 protocols, Detroit Mercy Law hosted a small cocktail event celebrating and thanking Crocker for her years of leadership and service to the law school.

In honor of her being the first woman dean of the law school, a portrait was commissioned and donated by the Student Bar Association (SBA) to hang in the hallways of Detroit Mercy Law permanently.

The portrait was painted by local Detroit artist Henry Heading, who painted two other portraits at Detroit Mercy Law. 

The event began with remarks from Antoine Garibaldi, president of University of Detroit Mercy, followed by Pamela Zarkowski, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs of University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrence A. Keith, ’84, chair of the Detroit Mercy Law Association of Black Law Alumni; and Mariah Herfi, ’21, 20-21 SBA president. After the unveiling by the SBA leadership, Oakland County Circuit Court JudgeDenise Langford Morris, ’82, offered remarks and led a champagne toast in Crocker’s honor. 

“One of the things Dean Crocker did which was quite remarkable was reach out to alumni across all sectors and the student bodies across all sectors,” said Keith. “I was taken by how Phyllis really listened and responded and helped me begin to piece together a history of Black law alumni.” 

At the conclusion of his remarks, Keith presented Crocker with a framed stole from the Association of Black Law Alumni. 

“From my very first day, Dean Crocker has always made sure there is a sense of community at Detroit Mercy Law, so everyone feels supported,” said Herfi. “From meeting Dean Crocker at the admitted students reception to being welcomed into her professional circle, it has been an honor to go to a law school with such a strong leader.” 

“I have watched you in amazement for seven years. When you first came, I was so happy to have the first woman dean,” said Langford Morris. “I want to say congratulations for a job well done.” 
Crocker said it had been a privilege to serve as dean.

“I have said that every time I introduce myself and I say it because it’s true,” she said. “It has given me the opportunity to do something special that made me proud and I am very proud of this community. 

“One of the things I am most proud of is how we’ve become a more diverse community. A more welcoming and inclusive community, especially in the areas of race, ethnicity, LGBTQ, and first-generation students.”

Crocker is succeeded as dean by Jelani Jefferson Exum.

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