The most courageous, or perhaps foolhardy, thing I did in law school was taking Corporate Tax in my final quarter. I had no accounting, economics, or even business background, and the professor had failed graduating seniors the year before. Every time I asked a question in class, the professor would preface his response with, "You don't have any accounting background, do you?" Each time I would answer, "No, I don't," and he would then proceed to enlighten my ignorance. Needless to say, I passed the course.
Even then, I had no thought of a career in tax. After law school, I clerked for Rosalie E. Wahl, Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. I then joined a law firm whose practice focused on divorce, estate planning, and general business matters. I spent most of my first six months working on a trust case where our clients claimed that their mother conspired with their step-father to murder their grandmother. The case ended up in the Minnesota Supreme Court on issues of jurisdiction, collateral estoppel, and double jeopardy, and it provided the impetus for my first law review article, Does It Pay to Kill Your Mother? During the remainder of my two years with the firm, I focused on divorce and estate planning.
When I joined the faculty of the Vermont Law School in 1981, then Dean Thomas M. Debevoise asked me to teach Tax and Torts. Although I did not quite see the connection between Tax and Torts, other than the fact that they both began with the letter "T," I agreed. Over the years, I have taught the entire tax curriculum at Vermont Law School -- Income Tax, Business Tax, Corporate Tax, Estate Tax, Estate Planning, and Tax Policy -- as well as Appellate Advocacy, Torts, and Estates. I am currently teaching Estates, Estate & Gift Tax, and Income Tax. And after 24 years of teaching, I still believe that teaching Tax is much easier than teaching Torts.
My passion is teaching; I thrive on the interactions with students, both in the classroom and in my office. Helping them unravel the mysteries of the Internal Revenue Code is tremendously satisfying. One of my students who seemed particularly challenged by the material sent me the following message this spring: "I did my taxes all by myself for the first time yesterday. It took about 20 minutes total and I'm getting a nice refund. I am no longer afraid of taxes, thank you."
My research interests focus on the transmission of property between generations and the taxation of those transfers. I recently published a casebook Federal Taxation of Wealth Transfers: Cases and Problems (Aspen, 2004), and the third edition of a student guide, Federal Estate and Gift Taxation: An Analysis and Critique (West, 2004).
The same sense of adventure that led me to take Corporate Tax in my third year of law school has prompted me to seek another term as Vice Dean for Academic Affairs. I served in that capacity from 1989 to 1994 and again from 1997 to 2002. It has always seemed to me that an inordinate number of tax professors end up serving their law schools in this capacity. Perhaps it is our ability to never lose sight of the big picture while at the same time tending to the smallest detail.
I live on a hobby farm, with a small flock of sheep, a border collie, my husband, Stephen, and two children, all of whom play feature roles in the hypotheticals in my classes. When time permits, I read mystery stories, work crossword puzzles, and dance with the Four Corners Morris team.
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