James L. “Skip” Rutherford III has announced he will retire as Dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service effective June 30, 2021.
Rutherford was named Dean of the Clinton School in April 2006, succeeding former U.S. Senator and Clinton School Founding Dean David Pryor.
“Skip has been a part of the Clinton School of Public Service since it was just an idea to create America's first graduate school for public service. He supported the mission that students should both study and work on public service projects — in Arkansas, across the United States, and around the world,” said President Bill Clinton. “I’m grateful to Skip for his years of contribution, and wish him all the best as he plans for his retirement next June.”
Rutherford’s 14-year tenure as dean has helped to shape the Clinton School’s unique emphasis on project-based learning. Clinton School students have completed more than 1,100 field service projects in 93 countries across the world, including nearly 450 projects completed in Arkansas. The school’s students and graduates have totaled more than 407,000 hours of non-classroom work, equaling nearly 47 years of civic engagement.
“As he has throughout his career, Skip brought a unique energy and enthusiasm to his role as Dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service,” said Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, University of Arkansas System President. “Building on the foundation started by Founding Dean David Pryor, Dean Rutherford helped establish the Clinton School as a first-class destination for students and faculty interested in the burgeoning academic discipline of public service, and he amplified the reach of the school by building arguably the best public seminar series in the country. Through the speaker program and growing the impact of the student-led public service projects, his efforts have not only enhanced the educational experience for students, but also established the school as a community and cultural resource for the city and state.”
Under Rutherford’s leadership, the Clinton School has developed concurrent degree programs with the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; and the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Rutherford’s tenure saw a tremendous expansion of the Clinton School Speaker Series, which not only complements the education of Clinton School students, but provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day. With around 100 programs each year, the lecture series welcomes a diverse array of programs ranging from senators, congressmen, cabinet officials, and ambassadors to renowned academics, corporate CEOs, philanthropists, authors, and journalists.
The series has now hosted more than 1,400 programs while totaling nearly 250,000 attendees. Among the series’ visitors are 48 ambassadors, 25 Pulitzer Prize winners, 12 heads of state, and eight Nobel Prize recipients.
In March 2018, Rutherford oversaw the launch of Clinton School Online, an entirely online degree program built for working professionals. The program enrolled its third cohort in March 2020. The first online class graduated in May 2020.
Rutherford supervised the planning and construction of the Clinton Presidential Center and Park from 1997 until its opening in 2004. He coordinated the 40th anniversary commemoration of the 1957 crisis at Little Rock Central High School and the dedication of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. His private sector experience includes time as Executive Vice President of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, where he created the agency’s public policy division.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Rutherford is the recipient of the Journalism Department’s first Distinguished Alumnus Award. He has served as a visiting professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Lyon College, University of the Ozarks, University of Central Arkansas, and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Hendrix College.
Bobbitt said the UA System will announce details about the search for the next Clinton School dean in the coming weeks.
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.