Since graduating from The Orchard School in 1996, Jacob Rooksby has accomplished a lot. Pittsburgh Magazine honored him with a 40 Under 40 spot, he's published a book, and in 2012 he earned his Ph.D. Last month, he was hired as the Dean of Gonzaga University School of Law.
We caught up with Jacob to discuss his prestigious new role and how Orchard's progressive education helped shape his career path. Read our Q&A below!
Congratulations on your new position as Dean of Gonzaga University School of Law. Orchard is very proud of you!
How have you been?
Great! Our summer plans changed dramatically with the announcement back in April that I had been selected as Dean of Gonzaga Law. But what a fun transition! I had the chance to drive my SUV and our Airstream® travel trailer across the country. It was quite the 3.5-day journey! My wife and daughter wisely opted to fly to Spokane [smiles]. We have a more leisurely trip planned for later this month where we’ll be exploring Banff and Lake Louise for a week. We are really looking forward to exploring the outdoors in this side of the country!
After Orchard and Brebeuf, you spent most of your life out east—attending the College of William and Mary (A.B.) and University of Virginia (J.D., M.Ed., Ph.D.) before becoming a faculty member at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh. It’s been a little over a month now in your new position. How are you dealing with the coastal switch?
You are right, life ‘Back East’ is different from life in the West. The differences are subtle, but can be profound. For example, in daily interactions in the East (in restaurants, coffee shops, etc.), people sometimes ask “how are you?”, but they don’t necessarily care to hear the answer; the question is simply a prelude to a transaction. We have found in Spokane, at least, that different questions are asked: “How is your day going,” or “Do you have any plans for the weekend?” are much more common than the “How are you?” This simple difference, we’ve noticed, causes us to pause, reflect, and interact with people in a way that strikes us as more meaningful.
Can you share some highlights from your career and/or personal achievements.
I suppose two professional milestones for me were earning my Ph.D., and publishing my first book. Both sort of snuck up on me. I bet if you’d asked me at Orchard, or at Brebeuf, or even when I was in college, “will you do those things?,” I would have seriously doubted it. But the curiosity-driven nature of an Orchard education is the gift that keeps on giving. It has taken me to places, and led to successes, that neither me nor my parents could have imagined. For that I am immensely grateful.
What can you say about your overall Orchard experience?
Orchard gave me the confidence to pursue an intellectual life. For the Orchard student, recognizing problems and wanting to solve them was presented as the standard disposition one has toward life. It was not until years later that I learned that such an approach is far from normal. An Orchard education combines the curiosity to know with the compassion to care. It’s a precious and powerful combination, and one that we are now trying to inculcate in our own child (Foster Rooksby, age 5.5).
Do you notice any similarities between Orchard’s Progressive Education and the experiences you’ve had attending/working at various universities?
As an educator, I think back frequently on my formative experiences at Orchard. I try to exhibit the passion that I remember from Dean Peterson and Marcia Fiddler; the attention to detail and perfection that I remember from Mike Brown and Steve Thompson; and the humanity that I remember from Vicki Townshend, Gail Emerich, and Ann Shirley.
What are some of your fondest memories of The Orchard School?
I remember with particular fondness our Washington-Williamsburg trip. Dean Peterson was my advisor. The place captured me from first visit. William & Mary, located in Williamsburg, would be the only college I applied to. My wife (also a W&M graduate) and I bleed green & gold to this day. Of course, those are the Orchard colors, too!Click here to read Gonzaga's Dean of Law School article on Jacob Rooksby.