By MARILYN TINNIN
Dean Wendy Scott took the reins at the Mississippi College School of Law in August of last year. Her impressive resume reveals a woman of many talents who has distinguished herself as a lawyer, teacher, legal scholar, administrator, and community leader. She has worn all of those hats with distinction. She is also 100% wife, mother, and lover of family. Whether she is representing her profession, her family, her gender, or her race, her commitment is to Christ and to a standard of excellence.
Dr. Lee Royce, President of Mississippi College, has been delighted to watch Dean Scott in action this first year. There could be no one whose skill set fits the MC mission more beautifully. “An honors graduate of Harvard University with a major in philosophy and a law degree from the New York University School of Law, Wendy Scott brings a lifetime of exceptional service to the position, having distinguished herself as a lawyer, teacher, legal scholar, and administrator. We are pleased to have someone so accomplished and respected in the legal academy provide leadership for our law school,” exclaimed Royce.
“Dean Scott has also faithfully served in a number of positions with Baptist churches and ministries, alongside her husband Reverend Eddie Scott, before coming to Mississippi College. She uses these experiences to promote opportunities for MC Law and its students to provide service to the community. These Christian ideals reflect a commitment to the core values of MC.”
Despite the outstanding pedigree, Dean Scott arrived at her law career almost by process of elimination. She felt a call to serve others, something she came by honestly as the daughter of a career Army Master Sargent. “I knew that there was a shortage of doctors in low income communities, and I felt the call to serve in that way. I started out in pre-med and quickly realized I was not medical school material,” she laughs. As a philosophy major, she was in her junior year before she began to think seriously about what she would do after graduation. Graduate school? Teaching? Business? A summer job in the Harvard Business School convinced her that business was not her calling either.
“Friends and mentors really directed me toward law school. That was a good fit.”
Looking back, it was obvious that she would love law. Although born in Baltimore, Dean Scott spent a number of childhood years in Taipei, Taiwan. When she was ten, her family returned to the states where her father finished out his military service in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then took a civil service job with the Department of Defense.
The Civil Rights Movement was well underway during this period, but the military was fully integrated and had been for a good while. As a member of a military family, Wendy and her sisters did not experience the racial barriers associated with segregation. But when she got to middle school and began to learn about disturbing events happening in various places in her country, she says, “It got my attention.” She had a real thirst to understand it. As an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, she remembers well the day he was assassinated. She also had a great interest in the South where many of the Civil Rights stories took place. Its unique culture intrigued her.
“When I graduated from law school, I practiced a lot of civil rights law, and the connection I felt became much more significant. When the opportunity presented itself to teach at Tulane in New Orleans, that was perfect because it put me in a city and in that part of the country where that history could come to life for me,” she says.
Dean Scott remained at Tulane for 17 years where she not only taught, but also served as Vice Dean for Academic Affairs. During that time, immersed in the community of New Orleans, she developed a deep affection, as well as an eyes-wide-open understanding, of the complex place that is the South.
Those years in New Orleans were special for numerous reasons, not the least being that she met and married Reverend Eddie Scott, a Baptist minister. Their son, Christian, was born in 1998. It was actually Hurricane Katrina that seemed to decide for the Scotts that it was time to leave New Orleans. They evacuated before the levees broke, but two days later they learned they were then homeless!
Devastation was everywhere. Reverend Scott’s congregation had all suffered great losses, and it was likely that most would not return to New Orleans. It was almost impossible to make plans of any kind. There were no precedents or protocols that could tell people who had lost everything in the course of a few hours how to start over rebuilding the lives that had been years in the making.
Dean Scott, however, does not hesitate to say, “God was really so good to us. I saw God move so powerfully not only in my life, but in the lives of all Believers and even Unbelievers. Many Christians probably unknowingly lead a lot of others to Christ through that period because the church rose up to help in a way that was so evident and so real.” She cites strangers helping strangers, going the extra mile to offer whatever was needed to people who had absolutely nothing to give in return. “It was an incredible spiritual journey. It was stressful and emotional, but it was also the most powerful spiritual encounter with God in my entire life.”
Her alone time with God was crucial in the way she processed it all. She filled journal after journal with the daily insights God was teaching her. It was during that period she ran across Psalm 94:19. It has become her favorite verse because it was literally something she experienced each and every day through the months when she and her husband had no idea what to do next. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Not that she had ever doubted God was real and his Word was life, but she grew through that experience in a way that she might have missed but for the monster storm named Katrina.
Dean Scott says that one of her great career challenges has always been discerning whether a new opportunity was something God wanted for her or something she wanted for herself. She says that it can be tempting to try to get ahead of God instead of simply waiting, praying, spending time in the Word, and being sure God is the one opening the doors. That challenge was presented larger than ever after Katrina. As she explains, “The question was should we stay or should we move. I could have stayed at Tulane and likely moved into full-time administration.” The Scotts had definitely come to love that interesting city of New Orleans. Wendy calls it “a crossroads kind of moment” as they prayed for clear direction.
As a two-career couple, Wendy sees God’s direct hand in the providential way He has ordered their steps. Both feel very much called to their respective professions and both feel very strongly about the priority of family. How has it all come together without a big conflict over whose job is most important? Only God could have orchestrated the way their individual careers have played out over the past twenty years of marriage.
“The Lord has always managed to make it so one of us had more flexibility in our schedule when the other one didn’t. We never wanted our son to suffer because of our work responsibilities,” she says. Of course it took some intentional humility on the part of Wendy and Eddie to let God direct their careers and to get out of the way! They never lost sight of what was most important.
Wendy accepted a position at the North Carolina Central University School of Law in 2006. The Scotts were not even settled in their new home before Reverend Scott was called to work in the Maryland Delaware Baptist Convention necessitating a move to Baltimore. It was too late for Wendy to back out of her new job in Durham. The couple prayerfully approached the dilemma asking, “What is best for us as a family?”
It was mutually decided that Wendy would fulfill her duties at NCCU for one semester splitting her week between Durham and Baltimore. Christian would live with his father in Baltimore since he was starting school, and his parents thought his life would be less disrupted if he settled in one spot. Wendy asked for a leave of absence from her new job and was granted that request. She was able to move to Baltimore that next semester while Eddie worked with the Baptist Convention for the next two years.
Then it was back to Durham until they moved to Jackson in 2014 when Wendy accepted her present position as Dean of the Mississippi College School of Law. Reverend Scott, through Christian Bible Fellowship Ministries, which he founded in New Orleans, does consulting work with small churches and supply preaching, while enjoying the opportunity to spend time with their son. Christian is presently a junior at St. Andrews Episcopal School in Ridgeland where his proud mama tells me he plays point guard on the Varsity Basketball team.
As Dean of the Law School, Wendy spends a lot of time traveling these days. Travel is something Reverend Eddie and Christian enjoy also, and hopefully they will get a family trip in over the Christmas holidays. Their “downtime” frequently involves some healthy family competition with ping-pong, video games, card games, and even dominoes. “Just hanging out together,” is the best part of this season of life.
Dean Scott enjoys reading although she doesn’t have as much time at the moment as she would like to read for pure enjoyment. Books on tape have been a great resource, and she always travels with several for time on the plane and in airports. One of her favorites is John Grisham—who is surprised?
Another favorite these days is Prayers For My Teen by Mark Gregston.
Dean Scott’s devotions always begin with “Our Daily Bread” to get her going in the mornings. Sometimes she does specific studies, with Beth Moore being a favorite. “Her study on Daniel was just fantastic!” she says.
The Scotts have not yet transferred their church membership to a local church, although they are frequent visitors at various churches in Jackson and Clinton.
Dean Scott’s Philosophy of Law Practice
As a Christian in the legal field, especially in our pluralistic society and a culture that is increasingly secular, Dean Scott operates with grace and apparent ease. She believes that at Mississippi College, she has a remarkable opportunity to promote the highest moral, ethical, and Christian values in the education of aspiring law students. “One reason why being here at MC is such a blessing is because we really need more Christian lawyers,” she says. “There are so many social and political issues that find their way through the legal system, and I really want Mississippi College Law School to be a welcoming place to discuss them all.”
She mentions a particular speaker, Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile of the Anacoste River Church in Washington, DC, who impressed her very much at the Christian Legal Society Conference a few weeks ago. “He captured the idea perfectly when he said wouldn’t it be amazing if people with the mind of Christ were thinking about the difficult issues facing our nation today. If you are a Believer, you are striving to have the mind of Christ in all aspects of your life. Then it is going to influence the way you approach your practice of law. And so, I appreciate being here at this law school for that reason,” she says.
“You know we believe in academic freedom, and we talk openly about all issues and all sides of issues—that’s the training we provide. You need to be able to defend or prosecute regardless of personal beliefs, but at some point your personal beliefs have to influence the way you counsel your clients, the way you address the issues that come through your office. Just that image of a person with the mind of Christ coming to those issues and counseling individuals is a powerful image to me,” she says.
“As much as we talk about justice today, I see a lack of compassion and mercy in our legal system. The scripture pairs justice with mercy (Micah 6:8), so just infusing the doctrinal beliefs that we stand on as Christians—in the way that we practice law and in our discussions of those issues—is an opportunity that I see with this position,” she says.
She is passionate about the need for Christian lawyers in our world, and she will do her part in the place God has called her to help provide as many as possible!