- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Tulane University has selected Michael A. Fitts, the dean and a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, as the successor to retiring president, Scott Cowen.

Fitts takes over as the school’s 15th president on July 1.

At a news conference Tuesday, Rick Rees, a co-chair of Tulane’s presidential search committee, said the panel unanimously selected Fitts.

A native of Philadelphia, Fitts earned a bachelor of arts from Harvard University in 1975. He enrolled in law school at Yale University and became an editor of the Yale Law Journal, earning his juris doctor in 1979.

Tulane board president Darryl Berger called Fitts an outstanding scholar, and noted his reputation as a successful fundraiser.

“To someone like me, who cares passionately about the future of higher education, Tulane is special,” Fitts said. He added that he is eager to attend his first football game at Yulman Stadium - under construction on the Tulane campus - where the team is expected to play this fall after decades in the Superdome downtown.

According to a biography from Tulane, Fitts began teaching at Penn in 1985 after serving as a clerk for civil rights advocate Judge Leon Higginbotham and as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. He was named law dean at Penn in 2000.

Cowen is stepping down after 16 years as president, a tenure that included the recovery of the campus and the New Orleans community after Hurricane Katrina struck at the beginning of the fall semester in 2005.

“Without a doubt, I am the most relaxed and relieved man here today,” Cowen joked.

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