Winter 2022

In Memoriam

Professor Douglas A. Kahn

Professor Douglas A. Kahn
Douglas A. Kahn

Douglas A. Kahn, the Paul G. Kauper Professor Emeritus of Law, died on October 22, 2021, at his home in Tallahassee, Florida, at the age of 86. He was the longest teaching faculty member in Michigan Law history and a devoted instructor and champion of generations of students.

Known for his distinctive laugh and love for a spirited argument, Kahn joined the faculty in fall 1964 and taught full time for 52 years. He specialized in the Internal Revenue Code and was a prolific scholar who co-authored two casebooks as well as several textbooks and articles on a variety of tax-related topics. Throughout, teaching remained Kahn’s true passion. He was a visiting professor at several esteemed law schools during his career, including Stanford and Duke. When asked why he stayed at Michigan when he had received offers from other schools, he once said, “I have never had any group of students that I have enjoyed as much as the ones that I’ve had here.”

The feeling was mutual, since it was not unusual for Kahn’s students to develop a professional interest in the tax code—including his own son, Jeffrey, who graduated from the Law School in 1997 and now teaches federal taxation law at Florida State University. 

He also made an impression on other members of the Law School faculty. “When Doug expected his students to master the tax laws, they loved him for it. He was a brilliant teacher and a fantastic colleague, especially to a young tax professor just starting out in the business,” says Kyle Logue, the inaugural chairholder of the Douglas A. Kahn Collegiate Professorship. “I could not have made it through those early years of teaching without his patient and generous advice. When I found myself in a disagreement with him in a faculty meeting or debating with him in the faculty lounge, I was always impressed by his honesty, fearlessness, and overall intelligence, as well as by how quickly he seemed to forget our disagreements. He was an excellent mentor and good friend. He will be sorely missed.”

Kahn retired in 2016, an occasion that was marked by the U-M Board of Regents with the creation of the professorship in his name. Additionally, in appreciation of Kahn’s decades of service, a close friend and former student established the Douglas A. Kahn Scholarship Fund; Kahn later documented a bequest to the fund himself, noting that Michigan Law is “much closer to my heart than anywhere else. It is where I want to leave something after my passing to give back to the institution that has given me so much.”

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Kahn graduated from the University of North Carolina and The George Washington University Law School. Prior to his academic career, Kahn practiced in Washington, D.C., and served as a trial attorney with both the civil and tax divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice. His wife, Mary Briscoe Kahn, ’69, passed away in 2013.