James W. Houck
Interim Dean, Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs
Vice Admiral, JAG Corps, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs
Director, Center for Security Research and Education
LL.M., Georgetown University Law Center (International and Comparative Law)
J.D., University of Michigan
B.S., United States Naval Academy
Vice Admiral (Ret.) James W. Houck is the interim dean and a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs and the inaugural director of the Center for Security Research and Education at Penn State. He joined Penn State in 2012 after a 32-year career in the United States Navy, beginning as a qualified destroyer officer of the deck and culminating in appointment as the 41st Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy. From 2013-2017, he served as the interim dean of the unified Dickinson School of Law and the School of International Affairs, as well as interim dean of Penn State Law in University Park for the school’s first two years. As a member of the Penn State Law and School of International Affairs faculty, he focuses on national security law, international law, law of the sea, law of armed conflict, and legal issues within the military. He teaches the groundbreaking national security law course Leadership in Crisis Simulation. In 2020, by vote of the graduating 3L class, he received the Penn State Law J.D. Teaching Award for excellence in teaching.
As the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Admiral Houck was the principal military legal counsel to the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations and led the 2,300 attorneys, enlisted legal staff, and civilian employees of the worldwide Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He also served as the Department of Defense Representative for Ocean Policy Affairs and oversaw the Department of the Navy's military justice system. Among his assignments as a Navy lawyer, Admiral Houck served as deputy legal counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as principal legal counsel to the Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain. Admiral Houck served in the Navy’s Office of Legislative Affairs and was also a Navy prosecutor and defense attorney.
As the interim dean, he oversaw the separation of the unified Dickinson School of Law into two separate law schools, Penn State Law, located on Penn State’s largest, central campus in University Park, and Dickinson Law in Carlisle. As interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, he led efforts to integrate both schools with a variety of disciplines across the University Park campus and beyond.
Admiral Houck is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has previously served as a member of the Secretary of Defense's Independent Review Panel on Sexual Assault in the Military, the Hoover Institute's Arctic Security Initiative, and the Easter Seals Command Council, which supports military service members, veterans, their families, and families of the fallen.