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New chair at Vanderbilt Law School recognizes teaching excellence

Feb. 2, 2004, 11:11 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-A new chair at Vanderbilt University Law School
recognizes the importance of the classroom talents of the school’s
faculty. The Tarkington Chair in Teaching Excellence was awarded to its
first recipient, Professor Tom McCoy, in a ceremony last week.

The position is endowed by Carlton Tarkington, a 1963 alumnus of the
Law School. Tarkington is a principal with Edinburgh Investments in
Nashville, a member of the school’s Alumni Board, a member of the
Tennessee Bar Association and a founder and director of Primetrust Bank
in Middle Tennessee.

McCoy was an obvious choice as the first recipient of the chair,
Tarkington said. "Tom McCoy has the reputation, and justifiably so, of
being the best teacher in the Law School," he said. "The students love
his classes and always hold him in fond memory when they get together
and reminisce about their law school experiences. Tom McCoy is always
at the top of their lists because he has mastered the art of teaching
and making it interesting."

Tarkington added that McCoy employs the Socratic method, which
engages students, and that his rapport with them is unmatched. "I think
teaching is an art," Tarkington said, "and he has mastered that art.
While I appreciate all the fabulous research that goes on at
Vanderbilt, I wanted to honor those people who are truly dedicated
teachers and to give back to the University which has given me so

McCoy joined the faculty of the Law School in 1968, making him one
of the longest tenured faculty members at the school. He has taught
constitutional law, including courses on the First Amendment, as well
as conflict of laws and alternative dispute resolution, to thousands of
Vanderbilt students.

"There are so many pressures that tend to divert a faculty member’s
attention and priorities away from his or her core teaching mission,"
McCoy said. "I am extremely grateful to Carlton Tarkington for taking
this significant step to reemphasize the teaching mission of the

Tarkington’s ties to Vanderbilt run deep and explain his high regard
for the art of teaching. He is a 1959 graduate of what was then the
George C. Peabody College for Teachers, where he majored in secondary
education. His son Bruce, with whom he now works at Edinburgh
Investments, graduated from the University in 1998 and earned his law
degree at Vanderbilt in 2001. His daughter and son-in-law, Jill and
Christopher Baltz, are 1992 graduates of the University, and both are
also Vanderbilt employees.

"I have a lifelong love of teaching," Tarkington explained. "Even in
my sales and marketing career with West Publishing Company, my best
efforts were in teaching others how to use our products. Though I never
taught in the classroom, I most enjoyed educating my clients and people
at conventions and meetings in the applications of our products."

The Tarkington Chair in Teaching Excellence will be awarded for
three years, rotating among deserving faculty, according to Kent
Syverud, dean and Garner Anthony Professor of Law. He described McCoy
as the clear first choice to inaugurate the chair. "Professor McCoy for
more than 35 years has been a demanding, insightful, inspiring and
rigorous classroom teacher-the kind students dream about anxiously and
alumni can never forget," Syverud said.

In his career at Vanderbilt Law School, McCoy has received numerous
teaching awards, including the prestigious Paul J. Hartman Outstanding
Teaching Award in 1984, 1993, 1994, 1996 and twice in 2000. The
students confer this award every year to the school’s top teachers.

He was given the Law School’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002.
McCoy was awarded the 2002 Thomas Jefferson Award, which is given
annually to a Vanderbilt faculty member who exemplifies service to the
University based on the character, work, influence, principles and
ideals of Thomas Jefferson.

For more information about Vanderbilt, visit the News Service homepage at More information on the Law School can be found at

Media contact: Susanne Loftis, (615) 322-NEWS

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