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The Passing of Michael Mulroney

Posted on Mar. 3, 2022

Michael Mulroney, a dear former colleague of Keith and mine at Villanova Law School, has passed away at the age of 90.  Michael had a zest for life, dry sense of humor and deep commitment to his family, colleagues and students.

Remembrances by Les

His passion for cars was legendary at Villanova: as head of the (one manned) Phlexed Sphincter Racing Team he competed in his 1962 British Morgan in about 150 races over almost 20 years. Michael was a very hard worker-you would find his old funky cars, including a cool Karmann Ghia that I envied, in the Villanova parking lot no matter when you came to the law school. Before he joined Villanova he had a successful career in DC, first as an attorney advisor for the Tax Court, then at the Appellate Section of the DOJ and then ultimately as a partner at a boutique tax firm. At Villanova he wrote about and taught a variety of subjects. He had keen interest in legal ethics, and I was fortunate to co-teach a seminar with him for a couple of years.

Michael displayed immense kindness and concern for his junior colleagues. Indulge me a couple of anecdotes. Along with the late Jim Fee Sr, Michael was directing the Villanova Clinic before I arrived in 2000. Jim and Michael stayed on as advisors; Jim more formally and Michael informally. In my first year as Clinic Director at Villanova, we had a mix up with the grant application for federal funding (a long and sad story). This was the sort of thing that could torpedo a first-year professor. Michael came to my office and said that “he was taking the grenade” and he took full responsibility for a gaffe that was mostly mine (we wound up getting the funding anyway). Fast forward a few years, and when a client at the Clinic submitted doctored documents that we inadvertently passed on to Counsel (another long and sad story), Michael was the trusted senior counsel with grey hair and good judgment who I turned to in crisis.

Remembrances by Keith

When Michael took emeritus status, Les followed him as the director of the graduate tax program and moved from the clinic to the podium. That left an opening in the tax clinic which I was fortunate to fill. Michael welcomed me to Villanova with open arms and was always available to assist with any problem in the clinic. We regularly debated which of us was the oldest person ever to obtain tenure at Villanova since we both left our prior careers at the age of 55 to join the faculty. He generously prepared the tax returns each year of just about every international student on the Villanova campus. In doing so he used his deep knowledge of international taxes and treaties to benefit the students in ways I doubt students anywhere else in the United States received.

Each year Villanova held an auction for public interest so that law students could spend their summers providing assistance in jobs for which they would otherwise receive no compensation.  Michael would often donate rides in his collection of antique vehicles as a way to raise funds.  One year I won the bid for such a ride, and he decided to bring out the “chicken” Morgan so that we could bring our wives on the ride.  While Michael drove and I sat in the very low front seat, our wives sat in the space Michael said the manufacturer designed so that his wife could bring chickens to market.  They wore scarves to keep their hair from blowing in the wind and we toured the Pennsylvania countryside before stopping at an Irish pub for lunch.  A memorable day with an unforgettable colleague.


We are fortunate that about fifteen years ago Paul Caron ran a series where tax profs wrote about their lives. You can get a sense of Michael’s sense of humor and joy for life in his brilliant write up here.

Rest in peace Michael.

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