Penn State has named Stephen S. Dunham, currently general counsel at Johns Hopkins, as the university’s in-house attorney.
Dunham will be vice president and general counsel effective with approval by university trustees, expected to happen at their July 13 meeting.
Dunham said he wasn’t concerned about starting the job at the university while it is in the midst of turmoil stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case.
“I loved what I heard about the university,” Dunham said. “It was a very positive experience to me to go through the process and learn about the office and plans to build the general counsel’s office.
“I don’t by any means minimize the challenges or their importance or the seriousness of the issues Penn State faces, but I also think what I’ve learned about the institution and the leadership is very encouraging to me.”
Dunham will take over for Cynthia Baldwin, the former university trustee who became Penn State’s first in-house counsel in January 2010, when the university created the office. Before that, the university had consulted with outside legal counsel.
As of January, the office had two attorneys, a paralegal and an administrative assistant at University Park and two attorneys and a paralegal at Penn State Hershey.
Dunham said an institution of Penn State’s size and complexity should have a legal office that is larger than the current one. He said over time it could include lawyers with specialties in areas such as faculty issues, general employment, intellectual property rights and regulatory compliance.
“You can’t have a specialist in every area,” he said, “but you can add people who may carry a portfolio of specialties.”
Dunham is a 1966 Princeton University graduate and a 1969 Yale Law School graduate.
He has been vice president and general counsel at Johns Hopkins since 2005.
Dunham has worked in private law and at the University of Minnesota Law School, including serving as a managing partner and chairman of Morrison and Foerster in Denver.
Dunham said his time as a law student at Yale overlapped with Lanny Davis, a legal adviser to the Penn State president’s office. But Dunham said he and Davis did not know each other well.
The announcement follows a search by a committee led by Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims.
President Rodney Erickson said in a statement that Dunham’s work has included “intellectual property, higher education issues, employment litigation and counseling, accounting disputes and general commercial litigation.”
“His practice has been in both state and federal courts,” Erickson said, “and he has provided legal services to numerous universities and higher education associations. That experience is an asset for us as we move forward in dealing with the issues before us currently.”
Penn State did not release how much Dunham will be paid or how many candidates were interviewed.
University officials have said Baldwin’s departure from the job is unrelated to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Baldwin was appointed to establish the office before handing it off to a lawyer to be found through a national search.
Baldwin was present when former Penn State administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley testified in January 2011 before the grand jury investigating Sandusky.
Schultz and Curley are facing perjury charges in Dauphin County for that testimony. They maintain their innocence.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy