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Dorothy Robinson retiring after 29 years as Yale's top lawyer

Dorothy Robinson, the head of Yale's legal office since 1985 and a university vice president, will retire in August.

“Dorothy’s service has spanned five Yale presidents, including as Rick Levin’s chief legal adviser for twenty years, and of course for me during my first year as president,” President Peter Salovey ’86PhD wrote in announcing the move today.

“It is difficult for me to think of Yale without Dorothy.”

The impending departure of Robinson, who was only the second female officer in Yale history, marks the next step in a major transition in Yale administrative leadership. Salovey took office last year, when Rick Levin ’74PhD stepped down after 20 years as president. Economics professor Ben Polak took Salovey's previous job, that of provost. The deans of Yale College and of the graduate school will both leave those positions in June; successors have not yet been announced. 

A year before Levin's departure, Joan O'Neill got promoted to become vice president for development, and Kim Goff-Crews ’83, ’86JD, arrived as university secretary and in the newly created role of vice president for student life.

And Dorothy Robinson—much less ancient than her résumé makes her sound—was there for all of it.

[H]er advice and counsel, and her extraordinary legal hand, have supported innumerable university initiatives, from Yale’s partnership with the City of New Haven, to research and educational collaborations with other institutions in the United States and abroad, technology transfer, on-line education, and the return of ROTC to Yale College,” Salovey wrote.

“At the same time, she has spearheaded the successful management of a great many complex legal situations for the university and our community in the increasingly challenging regulatory environment faced by higher education.”

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley's law school, Boalt Hall, Robinson was “handpicked” to staff Yale's new Office of General Counsel in 1978 by its first chief, José Cabranes ’65JD. When Cabranes became a federal judge, Robinson became general counsel. She became an officer of the Yale Corporation in 1987.

Among other high-profile assignments, Robinson coordinated Yale's response to a federal investigation of grant management and served as lead negotiator with Peru over the return of Machu Picchu artifacts.

She'll stay on as a counselor through next winter, to advise Salovey on legal issues and “assure a smooth transition for her successor.”


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

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