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Saturday, September 3, 2005

Tax Prof Profile, New Professor Edition: Kerry Ryan

This week's Tax Prof Spotlight continues our series of profiles of folks starting their careers this fall as tax professors at American law schools. As a Tulane grad, Kerry Ryan's profile is particularly timely this week.

Spotlight_2Kerry Ryan (St. Louis)

      • B.S. 1994, Cornell
      • M. Acct. 1998, Tulane
      • J.D. 2001, Tulane
      • LL.M. (Taxation) 2002, Florida   

KerryAfter graduating as a business major from Cornell, I lived in Ireland for almost a year on a work exchange visa (the Guinness is truly better there!). After honing my stout drinking skills abroad (and possibly while still under the influence), I enrolled in Tulane Law School with the intent of studying (what was then) EC law. After several sobering months, I realized that I liked living in Europe more than I would ever like studying its laws. Missing the certainty and precision that only numbers can provide, I enrolled in Tulane’s Master of Accounting program. It was there that I took my first tax class and the tax bug bit me, and it bit hard. The complexity and detail of the Code is what first attracted me to tax. But the policy implications of that detail are what really drew me in. It is this latter aspect of tax that drove me back into law school after completing my M. Acct. Every time I was taught “the rule” in the accounting program, I would be thinking: WHY is this “the rule”? SHOULD this be “the rule”? In law school Part II (as I like to call it), I learned to appreciate the uncertainty and imprecision that most of the really interesting tax issues provide. I went on to complete my J.D. at Tulane and to win the Tulane Tax Institute Award (and to mount quite a sizeable student loan debt which is anecdotally related to my current area of research – the tax incentives for higher education).

After Tulane, I attended Florida’s Graduate Tax Program. A funny thing happened during my year at Florida - I found my own voice. During law school, I was definitely the silent deadly type: absorbing everything but saying nothing. At UF, a confluence of factors (a passion for the subject matter, the influence of professors/mentors on the tax faculty, and the quality of my peers) combined to create the ideal conditions for my own personal “perfect storm.” By the end, you couldn’t shut me up in Marty McMahon’s corporate tax class! For better or worse, I realized I really do have something to say about tax.

My fiancé took us to Indianapolis after the LL.M. (he was doing a residency at IU), where I practiced in both the estate planning and tax practice groups in a large local firm. I would probably still be there right now if I hadn’t received a call from Florida asking if I would be interested in submitting a resume for the VAP position. Finding private practice somewhat limiting as a forum to express my newly found tax “voice,” I jumped at the offer. Somehow, I managed to sneak in and even more miraculously I now find myself at SLU being given the opportunity to teach and write in tax law. I can now explore those WHY and SHOULD questions that vexed (and continue to vex) me so. Hopefully, I can convince some of my own students that they have something to say about tax as well!

On a personal note, I am looking forward to getting married (finally!) at the end of May. When I don’t have my head in the Code, I like to run, golf, and scuba dive (although the opportunities are somewhat limited here in St. Louis!).

As a postscript to this bio, please allow me to express my deepest sympathy for those impacted by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Tulane and the city of New Orleans hold such a special place in my heart. I can only hope and pray that both are strengthened as a result of surviving this tragedy.

Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the tax professorate to the attention of the broader tax community. Please email me suggestions for future Tax Prof Profiles. For prior Tax Prof Profiles, see here.

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