OU Law Professor Jonathan Forman Named Kenneth E. McAfee Centennial Chair in Law; Professors Backus, Cleveland, Helton Receive Endowed Positions

June 19, 2018 | By Melissa Caperton, Director of Communications
OU Law Professors Jonathan Forman, Mary Sue Backus, Steven Cleveland, Taiawagi Helton

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NORMAN — The OU Board of Regents today officially confirmed the selection of Professor Jonathan Forman as Kenneth E. McAfee Centennial Chair in Law at the OU College of Law. The Regents also approved three endowed positions at OU Law for professors Mary Sue Backus, Steven Cleveland and Taiawagi Helton.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have on the College of Law faculty such outstanding teachers, scholars and leaders in their respective fields,” said OU Law Dean Joseph Harroz Jr. “Their exceptional knowledge and enthusiasm for teaching inspires our students, colleagues and scholars around the world.”

Forman joined the OU Law faculty in 1985 after serving as a tax attorney in all three branches of the federal government. He teaches individual income tax, corporate tax, pension law, nonprofit organizations and tax procedure. His research focuses on tax and pension policy.

“Professor Jonathan Forman is a nationally renowned expert in tax and pension law, and our students benefit greatly from his expertise,” said OU Law Dean Joseph Harroz Jr. “His knowledge and research interests are advancing important national conversations on these topics, contributing to the public’s understanding and appreciation of employee benefits law. We are grateful to the McAfee family and to the McAfee & Taft law firm for their generous gift that significantly elevates the mission and prominence of OU Law.”

The position honors Kenneth E. McAfee, the late senior partner of McAfee & Taft, one of Oklahoma’s largest law firms. McAfee earned his law degree from OU in 1934. Periodically, he served as an adjunct professor at OU Law, lecturing in the areas of taxation and estate planning. He died in 1986. The original endowment to support the professorship was established in 1989 with gifts from the McAfee family, friends, McAfee & Taft, the Sarkeys Foundation and matching funds from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The professorship was elevated to a chair in 1994.

“It is exceptionally fitting that Professor Jon Forman, a professor with a long and distinguished career in tax and business law, should be named as only the third holder of the Kenneth E. McAfee Chair in Law,” said Michael Lauderdale, managing director of McAfee & Taft. “In addition to being a brilliant tax lawyer, Mr. McAfee was an ardent supporter of the University of Oklahoma College of Law and its mission. He would be very pleased – as are we – with the selection of Professor Forman, as his outstanding credentials and passion for the law speak for themselves.”

Backus was given the additional title of Hugh Roff Professor in Law at the OU College of Law, where she also holds the title of Robert Glenn Rapp Foundation Presidential Professor. She teaches criminal law, education law, evidence and civil procedure. Her recent scholarship focuses on reforming Oklahoma law in the areas of juvenile competency and virtual charter schools. She joined the OU Law faculty in 2004 after serving as a visiting assistant professor of law at William and Mary School of Law. She began her legal career as a law clerk to Judge H. Emory Widener on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cleveland was given the additional title of Alfred P. Murrah Professor of Law. In April, he was awarded the Thomas P. Hester Presidential Professorship. Cleveland joined the OU Law faculty in 2002, where he teaches courses in corporate law, federal securities regulation, and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to teaching, he served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Henry A. Politz of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He then practiced law in a Washington, D.C., law firm, where he worked on various types of business transactions, including tender offers asset purchases, and mergers.

Helton was given the additional title of W. DeVier Pierson Professor of Law. He joined the College of Law faculty in 2001 and teaches environmental law, property law and Indian law. His research emphasizes environmental and natural resources issues relating to Native Americans, as well as nation building in Indian country. Helton began his legal career as a clerk for Judge Robert H. Henry, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has served as a Special Justice for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Supreme Court.

Founded in 1909, the OU College of Law is Oklahoma’s premier law school. OU Law offers small sections and class sizes that encourage a strong sense of community; accomplished faculty with international expertise; and a state-of-the-art facility equipped with the latest technology. The OU College of Law is the academic home of more than 700 students enrolled in the juris doctor program, the John B. Turner Master of Laws Program, the master of legal studies program and various dual degree programs. For more information about OU Law, visit law.ou.edu.

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