Giving Two Figs About Your Career & Other Life Lessons From Professor Larry Jegen

by Stuart Gutwein

Like many others long before and after me, I had the pleasure of learning Income, Corporate Tax, Estate and Fiduciary Tax, Tax Procedure, and State and Local Tax from Lawrence A. Jegen III. And also like many others, he was my favorite professor during my three years at IU McKinney Law School. But what made him my favorite professor wasn't necessarily the topics he taught inside the classroom.

Professor Larry Jegen taught me countless principles that I still carry with me today – a lot of which I attribute to my enjoyment and success in the legal industry. So in honor of Mr. Jegen, I wanted to highlight five of those principles, all of which I believe are important to everyone in life:

  1. Do what you're passionate about. If you had a class with him, or even spoke with him on the topic, it was obvious Professor Jegen was passionate about tax law. In fact, he could recite much of the tax code from memory, which is an incredible feat in itself.
  2. Do it consistently for a long time. Professor Jegen joined as a faculty member at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in August 1962. His experience practicing and teaching tax law for more than 50 years meant he knew both practically and philosophically how it worked, and that translated to everyone he encountered.
  3. Be excellent at it. A quick look at Professor Jegen's biography would tell you just how good he was at his job. For example, he won The Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion, which is the highest award granted by Indiana University. Twice.
  4. Have high expectations for people. As a mentor of mine, he could be tough, but it was out of necessity. It also made me realize my potential. For a sample of what he was like, I'd recommend listening to Jegen's Greatest Hits. "Let's try thinking" is my personal favorite.
  5. Show respect. Although he was a tough mentor, Professor Jegen showed respect, no matter who you were. For example, he always called his students "Mr." or "Ms." I heard the phrase, "Mr. Gutwein, are you with us?" quite a few times.
Although I am saddened by the loss of my mentor, I take comfort in knowing he will long live on through each and every person with whom he interacted. We should all feel the weight of carrying on his legacy.

I, along with so many, "gave two figs about" Professor Jegen. He will truly be missed.