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Posted March 25, 2010

Ryan Wins All-University Teaching Award

James E. Ryan

Law School Professor James E. Ryan has been chosen to receive an All-University Teaching Award from the University of Virginia.

“Jim’s popularity with the students is legendary — he could teach virtually any course in the curriculum and it would get a heavy enrollment regardless of subject matter,” said Dean Paul G. Mahoney. “He is the rare teacher who excels in every setting, whether the course is a large lecture or small seminar, required or elective, introductory or advanced, broad or specialized.”

Ryan, a 1992 graduate of the Law School, joined the faculty in 1998 after completing a two-year public interest fellowship and clerking for J. Clifford Wallace, then chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

An expert in law and education and well as constitutional and civil rights law, Ryan leads the Law School’s new Program in Law and Public Service, which he helped design.

"I'm really honored and humbled by the award. I greatly admire the colleagues of mine who have received the same award, as well as the many others who have not yet been recognized but deserve to be," Ryan said. “Perhaps more than anything, though, I am genuinely touched by the efforts made by all of those who wrote letters on my behalf or otherwise supported my nomination. Knowing that I have friends, colleagues and former students who are that caring and supportive has been, to me, the real reward in this process.”

Academic Associate Dean Elizabeth Magill assembled the nomination packet for Ryan’s award.

“On a faculty of highly accomplished people, most of us recognize that Jim Ryan is just more gifted than most of us,” Magill said. “Everything he does, he does at a level that few can achieve. He does that by a combination of natural talent, very hard work and thoughtfulness about what it takes to do something well.” 

Ross Goldman ’08 took Ryan’s courses in constitutional law and special education law.

“These two subjects implicate broad theories of governance, equality and rights, yet they are fraught with doctrinal nuances and legal principles that are difficult to grasp,” Goldman said. “Like an expedition leader, Professor Ryan taught us how to navigate these concepts and to discern patterns from seemingly disparate rulings.”

Sarah Anthony ’01 is another of Ryan’s former students.

“In exchanges with us, Professor Ryan stretched us to what felt like the breaking point and emboldened us to weather such challenges,” Anthony said. He “made us think harder, think further and think deeper, ever unsettling us, all the while leaving us standing.”

Everyone in Ryan’s courses, Anthony said, “realizes that the articulate, gifted and accomplished man leading from the front of the room could lead an administration or corporation, author voluminous texts or publications, or make law from the bench. Instead he chose us, and we knew it.”

Previous winners of the award include law professors Caleb Nelson (2007-08), J. H. (Rip) Verkerke (2006-07), John C. Harrison (2004-05), Barry Cushman (2002-03, Law and History), Kenneth S. Abraham (1999-2000), Anne M. Coughlin (1998-99), Paul G. Mahoney (1997-98), Michael J. Klarman (1996-97) and Pamela S. Karlan (1995-96).