Law School Celebrates Professor Coven's Career


Law School faculty and staff gathered in the Wren's Great Hall for a luncheon on April 23 to celebrate the end of the school year and the contributions of retiring professor Glenn Coven.

"Your colleagues and friends at William & Mary set you free with gratitude and appreciation for all that you have contributed to the Law School," said interim Dean Lynda Butler. Her remarks highlighted Coven's expertise in tax law and contributions as a teacher, but also gently ribbed the professor for his renowned frankness and, as one colleague quoted by Butler said, "firm opinions."

Coven joined the faculty in 1983, after having begun his academic career at the University of Tennessee. He came to Marshall-Wythe "long ago," during the first Reagan administration, Butler observed. "I must confess that I was here when he arrived," she said, poking fun at their mutual longevity.

In addition to his teaching and scholarship, Coven served as director of the William & Mary Tax Conference from 1989 to 2007, and as director of the LL.M. program in taxation from 1985 to 1995.

His "exhaustive knowledge of tax law, combined with his superb intellect and dry sense of humor, made him a valued teacher and scholar," Butler said. She added that he was "known for speaking his mind when the message was unpopular" and lauded him as someone who always advocated for what he thought was in the school's best interest.

She shared a number of colleagues' observations.

One characterized Coven as "a truly complete professor of law." "As a scholar," the faculty member wrote, "he has made important contributions in a wide variety of tax areas, from sophisticated corporate transactions to education incentives. As a teacher, he has explained the mysteries of the Internal Revenue Code to a generation of law students and has co-authored a leading casebook in the field. As a citizen, he has directed the William & Mary Tax Conference for almost two decades ...."

Stories about his not-so-retiring nature inspired laughter (and a knowing smile from Coven).

A professor who worked with Coven on the annual tax conference, wrote that he "has, shall we say, 'firm opinions' on certain issues" related to the school's longest-running annual event. "My favorite quote from Glenn, when presented with an issue or suggestion that he apparently was unlikely to consider further, was 'Yes, well, thanks for your suggestion and I'll get back to you on that.' That was the code language for 'No.'"

Another colleague commended Coven's "willingness to speak openly" during faculty discussions. "Glenn doesn't beat around the bush," the colleague wrote, "he beats the bush. When an issue was before the faculty, Glenn's reaction was based on what he thought was in the best interests of the Law School. Period."

"How true," deadpanned the interim Dean, "I've been that bush!"

At the luncheon's close, Butler expressed the Law School's appreciation for Coven's service and presented him with a brass and marble lamp inscribed with the school's name and College seal.