OXFORD, Miss. – Lee Tyner, general counsel at the University of Mississippi, has been elected board chairman of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, a group of more than 4,000 higher education lawyers across the country. He begins his new role in June.
UM Chancellor Dan Jones said those who have the honor of working with Tyner on a daily basis aren’t surprised by his selection to head a national group of his peers.
“It’s gratifying that his peers have selected him for this large honor and responsibility,” Jones said. “This brings recognition to our friend, Lee, that he deserves and certainly puts our university in the national spotlight. We value leadership and service. We are grateful to Lee for his leadership and service to both Ole Miss and this important national organization.”
Tyner, a Columbus native, earned a bachelor’s degree from UM in 1987 and his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1990. He worked as a litigation attorney for Butler Snow in Jackson for six years before coming back to Ole Miss in 1998. At UM, he worked for Mary Ann Connell, who was the university’s chief legal officer. When she retired in 2003, then-Chancellor Robert Khayat hired Tyner to become her replacement.
Tyner said NACUA is the best professional organization with which he’s ever been involved.
“My primary goal in my year as board chair is to do no harm because it’s such a highly effective, highly functional and healthy professional association,” Tyner said.
He has been active with NACUA for years and said he’s looking forward to leading the impressive group of lawyers from all levels of higher education, representing many universities and community colleges. He’ll assume his duties at the NACUA annual conference in Washington, taking over from the current board chairman, Tom Cline, vice president and general counsel at Northwestern University.
“I was humbled that my colleagues around the country who do what I do would ask that I serve in this way, particularly when I think of the other lawyers who have played this role nationally, whether it’s my mentor, Mary Ann Connell, who served in this role several years ago, or other professionals that I respect so much who have gone before me,” Tyner said.
The group is full of many dedicated professionals with whom Tyner enjoys working, he said.
“The thing about higher education lawyers is they are lawyers who like their job. They’re happy lawyers, which is not always an easy thing to find. They’re typically very interesting people and highly competent people and they are passionate about higher education. It makes for a pretty good combination of colleagues.”
The job of a university lawyer has become more challenging in recent years as federal regulations have become more far-reaching. The vast network of lawyers is a good resource for members of the group because the members have encountered almost any issue that can arise on a college campus, Tyner said. They often talk by phone or through email.
The group doesn’t take positions on issues, but does help other higher education trade groups with issues they encounter, he said.
“We’re trying to be a resource for these other organizations,” Tyner said. “We don’t take positions, but we’re trying to figure out how to have a seat at the table and have healthy discussions of our regulatory climate and how our student experiences are enhanced and not inhibited by that regulatory climate.”
Tyner was chosen for many reasons, including his record of leadership and service to the group, his commitment to its mission and also his modeling of NACUA‘s values of civility and collegiality, said Kathleen Santora, NACUA president and chief executive officer. He’s also always willing to help his colleagues with any issues they encounter, she said.
“Lee is held in the highest regard by NACUA’s members, and election to board leadership is clear evidence of that esteem,” Santora said. “If you ask NACUA members what stands out most about Lee, though, I am virtually certain they would respond that it is the warmth, graciousness and generosity of spirit with which he treats everyone he meets. It is my honor to know and to work with Lee, and we all look forward to working with him when he becomes board chair at the annual conference in late June in Washington.”
Tyner’s former boss, Mary Ann Connell, served in the same role at NACUA in 1999. Connell works in private practice with the Mayo-Mallette firm in Oxford and is still active with the organization. She said she’s also not surprised by the choice.
“He is the most capable person I think I’ve ever known,” Connell said. “He’s an excellent choice to be board chair. He’s a great leader, he’s brilliant, kind, considerate and hardworking. He gets along with people beautifully. He has all the qualities you want in a leader for such a large organization like NACUA.”