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William E. Thro is General Counsel of the University of Kentucky, former Solicitor General of Virginia, and an education law scholar. Over the course of his career, he has served as chief legal officer for both a public flagship research university and a public liberal arts college, litigated constitutional issues in the Supreme Court of the United States and lower appellate courts, taught courses on the Constitution at both the undergraduate and law school levels, and written extensively on constitutional law in education contexts in both the United States and South Africa. He is the recipient of Stetson University’s Kaplin Award (contribution to higher education law & policy scholarship) and the Education Law Association’s McGhehey Award (contributions to education law). He is a Fellow of the National Association of College & University Attorneys (higher education scholarship) and a Distinguished Research & Practice Fellow of the National Education Finance Academy (contributions to education finance). He is Vice President of the National Education Finance Academy (President in 2022-23), a past President of the Education Law Association, and former Chair of the Virginia Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Section.
As the Chief Legal Officer for the University of Kentucky, he provides proactive strategic advice on critical legal and policy issues confronting a land grant research university with an integrated academic medical center, a high-profile athletics program, and an operating budget of $4.2 billion. Before assuming his present position in 2012, he spent eight years as the first in-house counsel at Christopher Newport University, a public liberal arts university. Prior to becoming in-house counsel at Christopher Newport, he represented public institutions as an Assistant Attorney General in both Colorado and Virginia.
As Solicitor General of Virginia for four years, he was responsible for the Virginia State Government’s U.S. Supreme Court litigation (except capital cases) as well as lower court appeals involving the constitutionality of statutes or politically sensitive issues. He argued two cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous cases in the lower appellate courts. He co-authored seven U.S. Court merits briefs, eleven U.S. Supreme Court amicus briefs, and more than fifty briefs at the petition stage. Two of those briefs won Best Brief Awards from the National Association of Attorneys General (2004 and 2009).
In addition to co-authoring The Constitution on Campus: Constitutional Issues in Higher Education (forthcoming 2022) and Title IX: The Transformation of Sex Discrimination in Education (2018), he has published more than sixty articles in law reviews or peer reviewed journals as well as numerous monographs, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries. His articles on school finance litigation have been cited by the highest courts of twelve States. He is a former Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at Christopher Newport University and served as adjunct law faculty for both the University of Kentucky and University of Richmond.
A native of Kentucky, he received his undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Hanover College. In addition to receiving the Crowe Citation as the outstanding male in his class, he was the first Hanover student to become a Harry S. Truman Scholar. He earned a graduate degree with honours from the University of Melbourne while attending as a Rotary Foundation International Ambassadorial Scholar. His law degree is from the University of Virginia where he was a published member of the Virginia Law Review and research assistant to constitutional law professor A.E. Dick Howard. He began his legal career as a judicial clerk to the late Judge Ronald E. Meredith of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville.
He is married to the Rev. Dr. Julie Urback Thro and has three adult children (Sorrah, Will, and Noah).