Dean Jim Chen - In Person

I bet you're already aware that the Dean enjoys college sports, but did you know he also enjoys skiing? Do you know the names and breeds of his canine clan? Read all about it and more in his "In Person" profile at UofL Today.

President. Provost, vice president, dean, professor, manager, director.

As much as these titles describe and apply to the work that happens at the University of Louisville, they don’t get to the essence of what makes UofL unique — its people.

Once or twice a month, UofL Today profiles people who help to make the university what it is.

Name: Jim Chen

Title: dean and professor of law

At UofL since: Jan. 2, 2007. My first official day on the job took place at the Orange Bowl. I proudly claim to be the first fan in my section to spot the trick play that yielded a touchdown pass from Patrick Carter to Anthony Allen. I defy you to find another law school dean in America who can better explain the triple option or the cover 2.

Hometown: When native Louisvillians ask me where I went to school, I oblige and answer, with my best deadpan, “Clarkston High School, DeKalb County, Ga.” My wife, Heather, does make Louisville seem more like home every day.

First job and what I learned from it:
My paternal grandmother lived with my nuclear family when I was in grade school. She liked to sell jewelry. She spoke only Taiwanese; for my services as translator, I got a little spending money. I learned that everyone, deep down, wants to work and to feel a sense of accomplishment. I also learned that talent, patience and hard work all have their rewards.

The thing I like most about what I do: Getting to work closely with lawyers, judges and business professionals. Every legal professional’s journey of a lifetime begins with a thousand days in law school. Being dean gives me an unusually good view of what our graduates make of their careers, and I like what I see.

I am: happiest when I am in motion with lots of open space on all sides. Hiking trails and ski slopes are best. I like the adrenaline rush.

I never: treat myself to anything. The idea of “retail therapy” repulses me. If you see me wearing or carrying something nice and new, chances are that Heather bought it for me and ordered me to donate whatever that nice thing replaced.

Guilty pleasure: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that anyone bored by “Pride and Prejudice” in high school or college was a straight man who had not yet come to appreciate all the mysteries of dating and mating. I have since come to appreciate the virtues of romance novels and chick flicks. What I really need to know in life, I can learn from “Clueless,” “Legally Blonde” and “Sex and the City.”

And when I’m not mining this peculiar corner of popular culture, I draw great pleasure from being the assistant commissioner and official statistician (aka StatBoy) of the Ruth Adams Fantasy Football League.

Favorite books: In no particular order: “All the King’s Men.” The U.S.A. trilogy. “Look Homeward, Angel.” “Giants in the Earth.” “Ethan Frome.” The books that most move me are those about America, having come of age (in the human lifespan connecting the end of the Civil War with the beginning of the Second World War), and those typically dealing with immigrants, their immediate descendants and/or the deep South dealing with the awful responsibility of Time.

Favorite TV show: I generally haven’t the patience to watch anything on television except live sports events. I did follow “Lost” and was disappointed when it ended. Because I’m also a sucker for epics on good and evil involving outer space, I gave “V” a shot last season.

Favorite quote: I love the beauty and the power of this line from Dante’s Divine Comedy (Inferno, canto 2, line 72): “amor mi mosse, che mi fa parlare.” As love has moved me, so have I spoken.

These animals share my world: Heather and I have a blended canine family. She brought her soft-coated wheaten terrier, Finnegan, into the family. I added two pugs, Sophie and Savannah. There is never a dull or quiet moment in our house.

My day begins: I check news and messages that collected overnight. Heather and I talk while eating breakfast and ushering our dogs to and from the yard. I have a knack for starting a complicated topic of conversation just as she is headed out the door. Knowing that I have one shot at redeeming myself and making her happy when she gets home, I make the bed before I leave.

I wish I had more time to: pursue any of the objects of my life as Walter Mitty. To wit: Write the Great American Novel. Know the history of Earth and that of its living things, all the way down. Learn a few dozen foreign languages, and be content to master one or two of those. Crack the code on something deeply quantitative. Physics would be most profound. Finance would be the most materially rewarding. Music would be the most beautiful.

When I’m not cheering for the Cards, I’m cheering for: the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons and the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

Most Friday nights you’ll find me: at home or on a date with Heather. Really now. If you were married to the most wonderful woman in the world, would you be anywhere else?

If my life were a movie: Heather thinks my movie would be “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” I would like to think that my movie would be “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” or at least “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” Truth be told, though, it’s probably “Mean Girls.”

What else the UofL community should know: I am as old as the Super Bowl. Heather is a century younger than the Kentucky Derby. But the most significant annual event in our household may be the State of the University Address.

 

Reprinted from UofL Today (March 23, 2011).