Friday, June 17, 2011
A student compared one of this year’s Metcalf Award winners to Chuck Norris—and it was a pedagogical compliment.
“Long live Walker, Taxes Ranger!” proclaimed the grateful pupil of David Walker, a School of Law professor and Maurice Poch Faculty Research Scholar. Walker is an expert on the federal tax code, and the student’s written exclamation was praise for his mentor’s ability to make that incomprehensible topic, well, comprehensible.
The Metcalf Cup and Prize and the Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching are the University’s highest teaching honors. “Classes such as Federal Income Taxation and Corporations, often dreaded by students, become enlightening and career-changing experiences,” Walker’s Metcalf citation reads. “His innovative course in Deals gives students valuable experience to compete in a difficult job market.” (The course probes the economics behind commercial transactions.) “In other courses, he trains them to think like contract lawyers and challenges his students to analyze actual transactions presented by alumni practitioners.” ...
Walker is something of a Renaissance man. His undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt is in chemical engineering, and he worked in the oil industry as a crude oil trader, chemical engineer, and assistant to the president of British Petroleum’s U.S. arm before deciding on a career change. He chose the law out of both passion and pragmatism.
“I decided while I was at BP that I wanted to teach at the college or professional school level,” he says, both to learn new things himself and to instruct young minds. “I had always been interested in legal matters while in industry, and the great thing about pursuing a JD was that if the teaching idea didn’t work out, I could always earn a decent living as a lawyer.” ...
The Metcalf awards date to 1973 and are funded by a gift from the late BU professor and Board of Trustees chairman emeritus Arthur G. B. Metcalf (SED’35, Hon.’74). The Metcalf Cup and Prize winner receives $10,000, the Metcalf Award winners $5,000 each. A University committee selects winners based on nominees’ statements of teaching philosophy, supporting letters from colleagues and students, and classroom observations of the teachers. The Metcalf honors are presented at Commencement.