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Colleagues reminisce over former Wayne Law interim dean's memory

First Wayne Law full-time female faculty member was school's "organizational glue"

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Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

Frederica K. Lombard served many positions at Wayne State, including professor, associate and interim dean of the WSU Law School. She was the first full-time female faculty member at Wayne Law and was also a founding member of WSU’s Commission on the Status of Women. To friends, however, she was “Freddie.”

Lombard’s career began at WSU in 1966 and continued until her retirement in 2007. She passed away June 17, 2011.

Law professor Bill Volz said Lombard was “always calm and competent” and that “the faculty, students and staff all knew that their concern would get Dean Lombard’s full attention.”

“She never missed a staff member's birthday and knew their children's names,” Volz said. “She was the organizational glue of the law school.”

Wayne Law Assistant Dean of Students Michele Miller said Lombard was “very committed” to both university students and the city of Detroit.

“In later years when she battled illness, she did it with grace and dignity and continued to work very hard for the students and school,” said Miller, who began working with Lombard in 1988.

Law professor John Dolan, who knew Lombard for more than 30 years, said she always looked after everyone.

“As associate dean, she drafted the schedules. It’s a very difficult job, and you can’t satisfy everyone,” Dolan said. “It’s hard to satisfy, but most of the time, she succeeded.”

Former Wayne Law Dean Joan Mahoney said Lombard was one of the most ethical people with whom she had ever worked or known.

“She was committed to diversity in hiring both faculty and staff and in recruiting students,” Mahoney said. "She treated everyone equally and, as associate dean, she dealt with student disciplinary matters in a fair and reasonable manner.”

Law professor Alan Schenk, who began teaching at the same time as Lombard, shared stories of her kindness and ability to take a joke.

Schenk said students used to perform in annual skits to poke fun at the faculty. While many faculty did not attend or like the students’ humor, he said Lombard and her husband, Arthur, always attended.

Schenk said that early in her career, Lombard often wore short skirts. During the skits, the students portrayed her as a youthful woman in exaggeratedly short skirts.

“She always took the kidding well,” Schenk said.

Schenk also said that when his son had to spend a night in the hospital, Lombard and her husband stayed up all night with them and played cards.

“That is the way Freddie was,” Schenk said, “and that was the camaraderie that we on the law faculty shared.”

Dr. Sanford Cohen, who said he first met Lombard when he chaired the pediatrics department at the WSU School of Medicine, said that when they would work together dealing with child abuse, Lombard “had good understanding of the legal issues.”

Volz said he learned from Lombard how to be a better dean and a better attorney. He said she spoke softly, smiled often and emphasized the importance of an attorney’s values.

“Whether she was Dean Lombard or Professor Lombard or Frederica, she was the same genuine, helpful person,” Volz said. “It was a great pleasure to know her.”

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