William Nelson Cromwell Visiting Professor of Law
David Leebron recently completed eighteen years of service as president of Rice University in Houston. During his tenure, the university greatly increased the size and diversity of graduate and undergraduate student enrollment, enhanced the research and teaching facilities and vibrancy of the campus with $1.8 billion in new construction and major renovation, extended and grew its research endeavors, deepened its relationship with its home city of Houston including the building of the city’s premier innovation hub, earned greater visibility locally, nationally and internationally, created new institutes and centers and academic programs across a wide array of fields, greatly increased the presence of the arts on campus, and established deeper and broader collaborations and exchanges throughout the world.
Leebron has also served as chair of various organizations, including the Association of American Universities, COFHE, Internet2 and on the boards of the NCAA, the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, the Greater Houston Partnership, Fulbright Canada, IMAX Corporation and BioHouston. He was a member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by President Carter and Secretary James Baker.
Prior to becoming Rice president in 2004, Leebron served as dean of Columbia Law School. A native of Philadelphia, he is a graduate of Harvard College, where he majored in History and Science, and Harvard Law School, where he was elected president of the Law Review. After graduating in 1979, he served as a law clerk for Judge Shirley Hufstedler on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles, and taught at the UCLA School of Law in spring 1980. Following a four month trip around the world, he worked at the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. He joined the NYU School of Law in 1983, and moved to Columbia Law School faculty in 1989, and was selected as Dean in 1996. Leebron has also served as a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg, Germany, and as the Jean Monnet Visiting Professor of Law at Bielefeld University.
Leebron’s scholarship has addressed issues of corporate governance and finance, international trade, torts and privacy. He co-authored a textbook on international human rights. His law school teaching was primarily in those fields, and while president of Rice he taught courses on the legal framework of religious tolerance and race and the law.
Leebron was awarded France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre national du Mérite, and the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel La Catolica by the government of Spain. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate from Nankai University and is an Honorary Professor at Tianjin University Law School. In 2010, Leebron and his wife were selected by the Greater Houston Partnership as the city’s International Executives of the Year for helping make Houston a center of international business, and he also received the Roy M. Huffingon award for Contributions to International Understanding from the Asia Society Texas Center. In 2022, the Houston Business Journal awarded Leebron the lifetime achievement award for diversity in business. Leebron is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- David W. Leebron, Linkages, 96 Am. J. Int'l L. 5 (2002).
- David W. Leebron, Limited Liability, Tort Victims, and Creditors, 91 Colum. L. Rev. 1565 (1991).
- David W. Leebron, The Right to Privacy's Place in the Intellectual History of Tort Law, 41 Case W. Rsrv. L. Rev. 769 (1991)