December 9, 2006
Elena Marty-Nelson (Nova)
- B.S. 1980, Miami
- J.D. 1983, Georgetown
- LL.M. (Tax) 1986, Georgetown
I knew very early on that I wanted to be a lawyer and a teacher. I left Cuba as a child in the care of my grandparents. My grandfather–who helped raise me until I was reunited with my parents–was my inspiration. He had been general counsel for two banks in Cuba but felt he was too old (and too broke) when he came here to learn a new legal system. So, although he loved the law, he was never able to practice in this country. As is typical of many immigrants, he also put his faith in education. He explained that no matter what happens no one can take away your education and what is in your head. The best way I thought I could honor him would be to become both a lawyer and a teacher. I decided to do it for him–but really it has been terrific for me.
After law school, I worked for several years at a large firm in DC. It was a great learning experience. Even as a young attorney I was able to work on cutting edge deals. I quickly got hooked on the tax side of corporate work and took LL.M. courses at night. After some more years at the firm, I had learned a lot and had earned enough to pay off student loans. So, I gave up the flash (and paycheck) associated with private practice for my first teaching job. I taught in the real estate finance clinic at Georgetown–The Harrison Institute–as a graduate fellow. It was a different world. My students were representing low income tenants who were trying to obtain grants and avoid evictions. It was wonderful to see the students making a difference. I also realized that teaching was a blast.
When my first child was born I knew I could no longer hold off my extended family who had kept insisting I move back to Florida. I convinced my husband, who I had met in first year of law school, to pack up with our infant son and move to South Florida. I started teaching at NSU in Fort Lauderdale and I have been here ever since. That newborn is now in high school. One reason it works it that my associate dean, Dean Gail Richmond, is a true tax person. As a tax professor herself, she understands and encourages my need to question, to experiment, to challenge myself and our tax students. I highly recommend having a tax professor as a dean. Gail also lets me teach some of my other favorite courses such as securities regulations and wills/trusts. She has even team taught tax with me. Once we taught an online version of income tax to 115 students. Another year we team taught a hybrid version of income tax to about 90 students. She has also co-authored with me. Last week we sent our wills and trusts casebook to the publishers.
Outside of work, when we are not dodging hurricanes, my husband and I are in the stands watching our two boys swim in varsity swim meets.
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