Epstein installed as Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton bestows the medal of the Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professorship on Lee Epstein. (Credit: Mary Butkus/WUSTL Photos)

Lee Epstein, PhD, was installed as the Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis in a campus ceremony March 17.

“The Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professorship was created with the intent to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of noted faculty — individuals who, like the professorship’s namesake, are outstanding leaders and scholars,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “I am delighted to award this prestigious professorship to another such highly regarded individual, Professor Lee Epstein.”

Epstein completed graduate and undergraduate studies in political science at Emory University, earning her doctorate in 1983. She spent much of her early career at Washington University, where she taught from 1991-2006 and served as the university’s Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of Political Science and as professor in the School of Law.

She returned to Washington University last year after a span of several prestigious positions at other leading universities.

“It’s not often that a university gets to welcome an esteemed scholar like Lee Epstein to its faculty not just once, but twice,” Provost Holden Thorp, PhD, said. “We are extremely grateful that she has returned to Washington University. The Shepley Professorship is well-deserved recognition of her many talents as a leader, researcher and educator, and I could not be more pleased that she has received this distinguished honor.”

Epstein served as the Henry Wade Rogers Professor, a universitywide chair, at Northwestern University from 2006-2011; and as the Provost Professor of Law and Political Science and the Rader Family Trustee Chair in Law at the University of Southern California from 2011-14.

Her research and teaching interests center on law and legal institutions, particularly the behavior of judges. She teaches courses on legal research, constitutional law, judicial behavior and the U.S. Supreme Court. She is now working on several books — among them one that examines how national and local economic trends affect judicial decisions, and another on diversity in the federal courts.

Epstein was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2006 and of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 2004. Last year, she was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow and an International Visiting Professor at the Radzyner School of Law in Israel.

She is a principal investigator of the U.S. Supreme Court Database project, and co-editor of the Journal of Law, Economics & Organization, among other professional positions. She also co-directs the Center on Empirical Research in Law at Washington University.

A recipient of 12 grants from the National Science Foundation, Epstein has authored or co-authored more than 100 articles and essays and 17 books, including “The Choices Justices Make,” which won the Pritchett Award for the Best Book on Law and Courts; and the Lasting Contribution Award “for a book or journal article, 10 years or older, that has made a lasting impression on the field of law and courts.”

Her most recent book, “An Introduction to Empirical Legal Research” (with Andrew D. Martin), was published in 2014 (Oxford University Press).

During her previous stay at Washington University, Epstein was named Professor of the Year by the Undergraduate Political Science Association and received a Faculty of the Year Award from the Student Union. She is also a recipient of Washington University’s Alumni Board of Governors Distinguished Faculty Award and the Arthur Holly Compton Faculty Achievement Award.

About Ethan A.H. Shepley

Ethan Allen Hitchcock Shepley Sr., the eighth chairman of Washington University’s Board of Trustees, its 10th chancellor, a 1922 graduate of the School of Law, and a partner at Bryan Cave, served the university in many ways until his death in 1975.

His service was marked by a commitment to build Washington University into a national institution, by significant capital construction on both the Danforth and Medical campuses, and particularly by the development of the residential complex now known as the South 40 that allowed the university to draw students from every geographic region.

Shepley was chosen by the American Association of University Professors as the 1959 recipient of its Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom in recognition of his strong defense of the principle of free inquiry.

About the Shepley Professorship

Joel Seligman, JD, former dean of the School of Law, was installed as the inaugural holder of the Shepley University Professorship on Sept. 16, 1999. Seligman left the university in 2005 to become chancellor of the University of Rochester in New York.

The professorship passed to Kent Syverud, JD, when he joined Washington University as law school professor and dean in 2006. The professorship has been vacant since Syverud left the university in 2014 to become chancellor at Syracuse University.