Detroit Mercy Law Celebrates the Retirement of Dean Phyllis L. Crocker

July 07, 2021

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law celebrated the retirement of Dean Phyllis L. Crocker on June 24, 2021 with a portrait unveiling. Dean Crocker became dean of Detroit Mercy Law in 2014.  

Following COVID-19 protocols, Detroit Mercy Law hosted a small cocktail event celebrating and thanking Dean Crocker for her years of leadership and service to the law school. In honor of her being the first woman dean of the law school, a portrait was commissioned and donated by the Student Bar Association (SBA) to hang in the hallways of Detroit Mercy Law permanently. The portrait was painted by local Detroit artist Henry Heading, who painted two other portraits at Detroit Mercy Law.  

The event began with remarks from Antoine Garibaldi, President of University of Detroit Mercy, followed by Pamela Zarkowski, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs of University of Detroit Mercy, Hon. Terrence A. Keith ’84, Chair of the Detroit Mercy Law Association of Black Law Alumni, and Mariah Herfi ’21, 20-21 SBA President. After the unveiling by the SBA leadership, Hon. Denise Langford Morris ’82 offered remarks and led a champagne toast in Dean Crocker’s honor.  

“One of the things Dean Crocker did which was quite remarkable was reach out to alumni across all sectors and the student bodies across all sectors,” said Judge Keith. “I was taken by how Phyllis really listened and responded and helped me begin to piece together a history of Black law alumni.”  

At the conclusion of his remarks, Judge Keith presented Dean Crocker with a framed stole from the Association of Black Law Alumni.  

“From my very first day, Dean Crocker has always made sure there is a sense of community at Detroit Mercy Law, so everyone feels supported,” said Herfi. “From meeting Dean Crocker at the admitted students reception to being welcomed into her professional circle, it has been an honor to go to a law school with such a strong leader.”  

"I have watched you in amazement for 7 years. When you first came, I was so happy to have the first woman dean,” said Judge Langford Morris. “I want to say congratulations for a job well done.”  

“For the past 7 years, it has been a privilege for me to be dean of Detroit Mercy Law,” said Dean Crocker. “I have said that every time I introduce myself and I say it because it’s true. It has given me the opportunity to do something special that made me proud and I am very proud of this community.”  

“One of the things I am most proud of is how we’ve become a more diverse community. A more welcoming and inclusive community, especially in the areas of race, ethnicity, LGBTQ, and first-generation students,” Dean Crocker remarked.  

Dean Crocker will be succeeded as dean by Jelani Jefferson Exum.  

The video of the portrait unveiling can be watched here:

 Dean Crocker with a group of students with the unveiled portrait in the middle
Left to Right: Mackenzie Clark ’22, Joseph Sams ’22, Mariah Herfi ’21, and Maya Younis ’21 with Dean Crocker after the portrait was unveiled. 

Dean Crocker with Judge Terrence Keith
Dean Crocker with Judge Terrence Keith after the presentation of the ABLA stole from Judge Keith on behalf of the ABLA. 

Dean Crocker with Henry Heading
Dean Crocker with the portrait artist Henry Heading.