Former Law School Dean Jeff Shields Dies

Aug 4, 2014

The former head of the Vermont Law School has died. Geoffrey “Jeff” Benson Shields passed away Saturday at his Guilford home. Shields was 68. His death was announced by the law school on Monday afternoon.

Shields served as dean and president of the South Royalton school from 2004 until his retirement in 2012.

During his tenure, the law school established a number of programs and initiatives, among them the Institute for Energy and the Environment and the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law, the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and the Land Use Clinic. 

Shields also oversaw the creation of the college’s distance learning master’s programs and accelerated JD program.

According to a news release, “Dean Shields said, in the days before his passing, that he takes ‘special pride in speaking truth to power.’ This became evident during his leadership at VLS, which was one of only two law schools in the nation that withstood government pressures to maintain their positions against the 'Don’t Ask Don’t Tell' law and the military exclusion of LBGT recruits.”

VLS Board of Trustees Chairman Edward C. Mattes, says Shields, “brought sweeping change to Vermont Law School, and he was a thoughtful and engaged member of the VLS community even after his retirement in 2012.”

Before coming to the law school, Shields was a partner and chairman at the Chicago law firm of Gardner, Carton & Douglas. He also worked as counsel and foreign policy advisor to the late Sen. Frank Church of Idaho.

Shields was also a VPR commentator.

Shields is survived by his  wife, Genie, two children and three grandchildren.

Shields' death is the second to hit the Vermont Law School community in the past week. VLS professor Cheryl Hanna passed away on July 27.