Silverware clinked against dinner plates as a group of about 240 people – most of them attorneys and their spouses – gathered at Gainesville’s UF Hilton in April. A who’s who of Florida tax professionals and academics came together for the annual conference and banquet of The Florida Bar Tax Section.
In the morning, UF Law tax faculty joined by high-powered private-sector and Washington, D.C.-based government lawyers delivered talks on the prospects for tax reform and nuances of the tax code. It was a feast of tax law, and it set the table for a real feast in the evening in honor of the tax lawyer of the year, as determined by the tax section.
The first person to receive The Florida Bar’s outstanding tax lawyer of the year award was James J. “Jack” Freeland in 1982. Freeland was a co-founder of UF Law’s Graduate Tax Program. The second UF Law faculty member to receive the award was Richard B. Stephens in 1985, also a cofounder of the Graduate Tax Program. Current adjunct Professor Samuel Ullman (JD 67) received the award in 1994, and former program director David Richardson received it in 2000.
Now it was the turn of Professor Dennis Calfee (LLMT 75).
Appropriately, considering the award’s history, the latest honor for a member of the UF Law Graduate Tax faculty went to someone who has been serving the program and its students ever since he graduated from its first class in 1975.
Even the banquet in Calfee’s honor featured as its centerpiece a major boost to the Graduate Tax Program. The funding of the Dennis Calfee Eminent Scholar Chair in Federal taxation gives the program a significant position to attract another outstanding professor that will further burnish the program’s credentials.
Richard Comiter (JD 80, LLMT 81) described how Calfee’s name eased the way to raising money for an eminent scholar chair.
“When you ask for a contribution in honor of someone who is so beloved by all, who has spent his entire life asking what he could do for you and not what others could do for him, it was only a question of how much,” Comiter said.
UF President Bernie Machen explained to the assembled tax lawyers how Calfee connects with students and graduates.
“Dennis has a reputation for staying at his students’ sides literally forever. He helps them network, he finds them jobs, he guides them to judicial clerkships, he remains a trusted friend and adviser,” Machen said. “Ten or 20 years after the students graduate, many won’t switch firms or make significant career moves without first consulting him.”
During his nearly 40 years associated with UF Law, Calfee has served as associate dean of the college of law and as Alumni Research Scholar. He has taught at Peking University in Beijing, the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, the Academy of International Tax in Taiwan, and the University of Montpellier in France. In 2006, the Republic of China Ministry of Finance honored him with a third-level public finance specialty medal for developing Taiwan’s public finance system and training tax officers And twice in his career Calfee was elected college of law professor of the year.
“Students in Dennis’ classes say that they get the sense that he’s on the journey with them, and if you’ve ever shared that feeling with a teacher, you know what that’s really all about,” Machen said.