Aerial photograph of the Immaculate Conception Chapel

Former Dean Francis J. Conte, Who Spearheaded the Keller Hall Campaign, Dies

Francis J. Conte, former dean of the University of Dayton School of Law who oversaw the construction of Joseph E. Keller Hall, died March 20, 2011. He was 68.

He is survived by his mother Eleanor Conte; his wife Kathleen McShane, and their children, Brendan, Clare, Ciaran and Fiona; his brother, Anthony Conte, Jr., and sisters, Joyce Hill and Cheryl Cropley. He was preceded in death by his father, Anthony V. Conte.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts in Fran¿s memory be directed to the University of Dayton School of Law or the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Fran Conte served the University of Dayton and its School of Law for nearly 25 years, first joining the School of Law in 1987 as dean, a position he held until 2001, making longest-serving dean in the School of Law's history.

After he stepped down as dean, he remained at the School and returned to the classroom as a full-time professor. He taught through the beginning of the spring 2011 semester.

During his 14 years as dean, the School carefully planned and raised funds for Keller Hall; developed its distinctive Program in Law & Technology; reformed the first-year curriculum, including the introduction of the Legal Profession Program; and substantially increased the size and diversity of the faculty and the student body.

In 1990 he was named an honorary alumnus by the Dayton Law Alumni Association in recognition of his outstanding service to the School of Law. The Alumni Association also recognized Conte with the creation of the Francis J. Conte Special Service Award, which honors an individual's extraordinary community service, as reflected in the School¿s Catholic and Marianist values, and support for the School of Law.

"Fran was a warm, generous person, extending a Marianist warmth of welcome to so many in our community," said Dean Lisa Kloppenberg, who succeeded Conte. "At his core, Fran was rooted in his faith and his family. In a deep and quiet way, his faith and family inspired his constant energy and great optimism."

Overseeing the planning, designing, and fundraising for the School of Law¿s new home was a major challenge of his tenure as dean. "We had to create a vision of what the school would look and be like in the future," Conte recalled in an interview several years ago. "The character of the facility is a reflection of that long-term vision."

Despite the prestige that came with the state-of-the-art building, Conte was most proud of the relationships he built as dean. "I really enjoyed helping to develop and strengthen the relationship between the law school and legal community," he said, "especially with area judges and lawyers, and with our regional and national alumni."

Under his leadership, the School started one of the country's first intellectual property and technology law programs as well as an innovative Legal Profession Program. He also helped raise funding for the School of Law's first endowed faculty positions, the NCR Distinguished Professor of Law and Technology and the Samuel A. McCray Chair in Law, and to increase student scholarships and provide for future program needs.

In 2001, he returned to the School of Law faculty, teaching courses in constitutional law, European Union law, immigration law process and policies, and international law, and developed an expertise in European Union Law. During the 2008-09 school year, Conte taught at the University of Warsaw Faculty of Law in Poland as a Fulbright scholar.

As a professor, he especially enjoyed engaging his students in the learning process. "I do enjoy research and writing," he says, "but I enjoy the classroom experience most of all."

Conte was born August 16, 1942, in Salem, Massachusetts. He graduated from Beverly High School in 1960, obtained his bachelor's degree in political science from Pennsylvania State University in 1964 and received his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1969.

Conte came to the University of Dayton with a varied background in law and legal education. For seven years, he taught at the Detroit College of Law, where he also directed the Legal Research, Writing & Advocacy Program as well as the Center for Canadian-U.S. Law. While director for the latter, he developed and administered the Canadian Summer Law Internship Program, in which U.S. law students interned with members of Parliament, Canadian Federal Government Ministries and corporate law departments. He received two faculty enrichment awards from the Canadian Embassy for his development of course materials in Comparative Constitutional Law and U.S.-Canadian Immigration Law. He also served as a mediator for the Wayne County Mediation Tribunal, serving the Wayne County Circuit Courts and the Federal District Courts in Michigan.

He also taught at the University of Montana School of Law, where he directed its Civil Clinical Program.

Conte began his professional career as a trade specialist for the Bureau of International Commerce in the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. From 1968 to 1970, he served as a staff attorney for the Office of Council, Naval Ships System Command in the Department of the Navy. He also served as a staff attorney for the central Massachusetts Legal Services and as executive director of Legal Services for Northwestern Pennsylvania.