As a 2L, newlywed Stef Tucker, ’63, and his wife, Marilyn Tucker, ABEd ’62, returned most of their wedding gifts for cash in order to make ends meet. Through the Stefan & Marilyn Tucker Scholarship Fund, the Tuckers now are the gift givers. The scholarship supports Michigan Law students from the state of Michigan or from the greater Washington, D.C., area, where Stef and Marilyn have lived since graduation.
“We see the impact of our gifts immediately,” Stef says. “It’s a great feeling.”
When the Tuckers established the scholarship in 1997, they added a unique clause: “Each recipient … shall make a moral commitment … to begin to contribute to the Law School within 10 years from the date of graduation, a cumulative amount at least equal to the amount of scholarship assistance received.” Moral commitment lies at the heart of the Tuckers’s own support of the Law School. Stef grew up in Flint, Michigan, as the son of working-class parents whose dreams of attending college were curbed by the Great Depression. He attended Flint Community College before transferring to U-M’s business school, where he earned a BBA in 1960. He sold shoes to help pay his way.
Attending law school seemed cost prohibitive, but Stef’s near-perfect LSAT score led to a scholarship from the Law School right across Tappan Street. “That scholarship forever made me loyal,” he says. Still, attending Michigan was a financial stretch, hence the decision to part with the wedding gifts. So when the Tuckers’s car broke down during Stef’s 3L year, the couple was in a bind. Stef decided to quit his position on the Michigan Law Review so he could get a part-time job and put a down payment of $500 on the $2,350 purchase price of a new Chevrolet Biscayne.
The dean of students didn’t like that idea.
To keep Stef on the law review, Dean Roy Proffitt, ’48, offered a $500 loan—interest free if repaid within a year. But the Tuckers worked hard to pay it back early. “It was incredible for Roy to do that,” says Stef. “That loan, plus the scholarship, convinced Marilyn and me that we had a moral obligation to give back to the Law School.”
And give back, they have. Beyond their initial investment to establish the scholarship, the Tuckers have grown the fund significantly through the years. Because of their generosity, 11 Tucker Scholars have had the opportunity to attend Michigan.
Stef has spent his career in private practice, specializing in tax law, estate planning, and real estate. He is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Venable LLP. “Nobody can do a transaction nationally or internationally without tax being involved at some point, so we are brought into everything,” Stef says. “I get to think through things from multiple angles and help people. I’ve always loved it.”
His love of tax law and of helping others led to a parallel career as a law professor. Since 1969, Stef has taught at several law schools, and he currently is an adjunct professor at Michigan Law, where he teaches Business Law and Tax Planning for Real Estate Transactions. He enjoys mentoring students and teaching the practical implications of the law. “I sit in the [Robert B. Aikens] Commons between classes so I can talk with students. I was mentored by some great people, and I want to do the same for others, especially when students are so worried about their career choices and repaying their loans.”
In the spring, Stef was honored with the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the ABA Section of Taxation, in recognition of his lifetime service to the Tax Section and the tax system. At the award ceremony, Stef brought Marilyn, who is a career counselor at Georgetown University Law Center, to the stage with him for the acceptance. “I couldn’t have gotten where I am without her,” he says. “I couldn’t have gotten through law school, since she typed my notes.”
As they are partners in life, so too are they partners in philanthropy. Stef grew up with a tzedakah box in the kitchen, which honored the Jewish tradition of giving some of what little they had to those who were even less fortunate. Marilyn grew up in similar fashion, Stef says, so supporting organizations like the Law School is a no-brainer. “When we started having anything, we started giving something.”—AS