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Thomas G. Cline to Retire from Northwestern

Vice president and general counsel stepping down after 27 years

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Thomas G. Cline, Northwestern University’s vice president and general counsel, announced his retirement today (Sept. 21). He plans to step down at the end of this calendar year after 27 years at Northwestern and will be available to the president and Board of Trustees for a period of time thereafter to assure a smooth transition to his successor.

Since 2001, Cline, 61, has been the chief legal officer for Northwestern, providing counsel to the University president and the board and directing the University’s legal strategies. He joined the University's legal staff in 1989 as assistant general counsel and was promoted to associate general counsel in 1993 and to deputy general counsel in 1996.

“Northwestern has given me an extraordinary opportunity over the last 27 years,” Cline said. “It’s been an honor to serve an institution that I care so deeply about and to work with the many dedicated and talented colleagues I have come to know during that time. My practice here has always been diverse and challenging, and while I’m excited about the prospect of having more time to spend with family and friends, I will also miss being able to contribute my efforts to the mission of the University.”

Cline has led the University’s legal office as well as directed outside counsel on numerous high-profile court cases and issues, including the recent National Labor Relations Board decision regarding unionization efforts by Northwestern football players and the development of a new affiliation agreement between the University and Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. Among other major accomplishments during his tenure as general counsel, Cline drafted and helped negotiate the 2007 agreement to create a new Northwestern University campus in Doha, Qatar. He also has been a leader in the University’s initiatives to improve its risk management and regulatory compliance procedures.

“Tom Cline has provided critically important legal guidance to me and to the entire University during his tenure as general counsel,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. “While our conversations often concerned difficult and complex issues, I knew that I could rely on his thoughtful insight and legal acumen.”

Prior to coming to Northwestern, Cline served as the general counsel and chief operating officer for the National Association for Home Care, a trade association based in Washington, D.C. Before that, he was in private law practice in Chicago and Washington, D.C., with the firm of Keck, Mahin & Cate, specializing in labor and employment law. He has also served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Cline received his B.A. in history from Yale University and his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law. He has been a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys since 1989, serving as chair of NACUA's board of directors in 2014-2015 and as NACUA's treasurer from 2008-2011. He was previously a member of the NACUA board of directors from 2001-2004. 

William Osborn, chairman of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees, said, “Tom has not only been a key advisor to the Board of Trustees but also an important leader in revising and improving our compliance efforts. His work will benefit the University for years. We thank Tom for his many years of service and wish him all the best in retirement.”

Cline and his wife, Jennifer, plan to remain in Evanston.

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