Black Excellence: Stephen Ball Makes History As The First Black Dean Of Students At Harvard Law School

by Duke Magazine

On March 7, Stephen Ball became the new dean of students at Harvard Law School. He is the first Black man to serve in that post at the school since it was founded in 1817, and he hails from Southfield. In addition, the 36-year-old is only the second Black person to hold the role. The first was a lady of color.

Ball claimed that growing up in Southfield influenced him in his early years and that it continues to shape his vision of how people from different backgrounds can live and flourish together.

“At HLS, I will serve and represent all students – over 2,000 in total,” Ball stated in an interview with C and G Newspapers. “These are kids from around the country and the world, coming from all walks of life.”

Ball’s new role will entail developing meaningful student programming, assisting students in preparing for the Bar application process, connecting them to resources throughout the school, mentoring them, and monitoring activities on campus.

Ball grew raised in two Southfield houses. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy after high school. In 2010, he received his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.

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He interned at the mayor’s office in Detroit and a big organization in New York as a graduate public policy student. He interned in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and a large law firm’s Washington, D.C. office while in law school. He then spent almost six years practicing law in New York City at a prominent national law firm.

After that, he worked for an insurance firm outside San Francisco, then for Airbnb, before joining Wells Fargo as a senior vice president and strategy lead, where he helped the company improve its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“On both a professional and personal level, this is such an incredible opportunity,” Ball said of his new position at Harvard Law School. “It builds on my previous accomplishments while also allowing me to take on a completely new challenge.” It’s tremendously amazing to be able to bring all of that together for a place that I care so much about.”

Ball has made a lot of progress in his life and work. Even though there were difficult times, he remarked that everything he went through helped him grow.

He told C and G Newspapers, “I generally remind students that their career arc is presumably long — somewhere between 30-40 years, perhaps even longer.” “As a result, people should pursue their interests and passions, assuming that their other responsibilities enable them to do so.”

John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Dean of Student Services Jessica Soban ’07 expressed their delight at Ball’s return in a message to the Harvard Law School community.

“His experience as a student here, his extensive knowledge of our profession, and his demonstrated dedication to mentorship and the development of others’ aspirations and abilities make him an outstanding fit to be our new dean of students,” they said.

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