TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Spotlight_1_1Carolyn L. Dessin (Akron)

        • B.M. Ed. 1978, Temple
        • M.M. 1980, Westminster Choir College
        • J.D. 1987, Villanova



Dessin My road to teaching tax law was definitely not direct. I started out as a musician who wanted to teach and conduct, and received a Bachelor of Music Education degree in voice from Temple University. I went on to receive a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Westminster Choir College, where I studied with Joseph Flummerfelt. I became a music teacher in the Colonial School District in suburban Philadelphia and a Director of Music in several Philadelphia area churches. Many public schools were suffering reductions in force during that time, and I kept getting “RIF”fed at the end of each school year and hired back in the following year for a more and more part-time position. Like most musicians, I also taught private piano students and played weddings and bar mitzvahs.

When I got tired of being a semi-employed starving musician, I decided that I needed to find another teaching discipline. Law interested me, although I knew virtually nothing about it and had never met a lawyer. I took the LSAT and headed off to Villanova. I thought that teaching criminal law would be interesting, so I clerked for a county judge sitting on criminal cases after first year. That experience taught me that I NEVER wanted to be involved with criminal law again, so I was looking for another area of interest in the Fall of my second year of Law School.

I was lucky enough to have James Maule for Income Tax, and I was hooked! I have to confess to some prior interest in tax. I remember reading the instructions for the 1040 and thinking that the intricacy of the tax system was a lot like counterpoint – both require working creatively within a set of fairly rigid rules to attain a goal. But Jim Maule really peaked my interest in tax and gave a lot a good advice about becoming a law teacher.

After graduation, I clerked for the Collins J. Seitz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and practiced in the Personal Law Section (Estate Planning) of the Philadelphia office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. I started teaching at Widener, then did a two-year visit at Idaho teaching Jack Miller’s classes while he was Dean there, and am currently a tenured Associate Professor of Law at Akron, teaching in the areas of Taxation, Estate Planning and Elder Law. My scholarship is primarily in the area of Elder Law.

I couldn’t give up music, and I’ve been an Alto with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus since 2000. I’m currently serving as the Chair of the Chorus Operating Committee and an ex officio member of the Orchestra Board of Trustees. We toured to Switzerland and England with the Orchestra last Summer.

My favorite recreational activity is kayaking. I spend my summers at my cabin in Wyoming paddling and hiking. I’m single and have two enthusiastic Labrador Retrievers, Alta and Targhee who share my adventures.

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Hi Carolyn,
Nice to see that music is still a part of your life! Call me some time s we can catch up!

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Apr 15, 2006 5:53:22 PM