Distinguished Constitutional Scholar Retires

Alan Tarr, who is retiring, taught his final class at Rutgers-Camden on Dec. 10.

Alan Tarr, who is retiring, taught his final class at Rutgers-Camden on Dec. 10.

Alan Tarr, a Board of Governors Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Camden and one of the world’s most celebrated constitutional scholars, is retiring after 37 years of teaching at Rutgers’ southernmost campus.

“I’ve just loved it here,” says Tarr, who taught his final class on Dec. 10.

At Rutgers–Camden, Tarr directed the Center for State Constitutional Studies, an interdisciplinary institute dedicated to promoting the public understanding of American state constitutions and sub-national constitutions in other federal systems.

“The research one does and the teaching one does go hand-in-hand,” Tarr says. “Part of the advantage of being at Rutgers–Camden is you are in a setting very similar to a small college. You are in a position in which you actually get to know your students and I like to think that they come back class after class because they like what they’re getting out of their education.”

Tarr began his Rutgers–Camden career as an assistant professor of political science in 1978 and became a distinguished professor in 1997. His work has appeared in numerous prominent legal and scholarly journals, as well as in multiple books.

He edited or co-edited such volumes as State Constitutions for the Twenty-First Century (State University of New York Press), as well as the 50-volume State Constitutions of the United States (Oxford University Press). He also co-authored the highly utilized textbooks American Constitutional Law: Cases and Interpretation (St. Martin’s Press) and Judicial Process and Judicial Policymaking (Cengage Learning).

At Rutgers–Camden, Tarr directed the Center for State Constitutional Studies, an interdisciplinary institute dedicated to promoting the public understanding of American state constitutions and sub-national constitutions in other federal systems.

“The research one does and the teaching one does go hand-in-hand,” Tarr says. “Part of the advantage of being at Rutgers–Camden is you are in a setting very similar to a small college. You are in a position in which you actually get to know your students and I like to think that they come back class after class because they like what they’re getting out of their education.”

Tarr’s expertise on the development of democratic constitutions is respected globally. He has presented his insights to state Supreme Courts and legislatures across the nation and, under the auspices of such organizations as the U.S. Department of State, around the world. Tarr has promoted the growth of democracy worldwide by advising governments transitioning to democratic rule, including South Africa, Myanmar, and Russia.

The Rutgers–Camden scholar recently served as the 2013-14 Ann and Herbert W. Vaughan Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He has also earned a Fulbright Fellowship, as well as three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was this year named to the Coalition of Freedom Advisory Board for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

“One of the things that always struck me is that for whatever reason, our students just don’t realize how good they are,” Tarr says. “Part of what makes teaching at Rutgers so rewarding is that you see people with tremendous ability and potential that hasn’t been tapped. The opportunity is there to assist them and help them tap into all that potential.”

“What stands out to me is that I’ve seen how hard our students work to get an education,” he says. “They’re going to school full time, many of them work full time, and at graduation, you get to watch the students you’ve had in the classroom and you see how proud their parents are. Oftentimes, the students are first generation college students and it’s a proud moment, not only in their lives, but in the lives of their families as well. That’s a really gratifying thing.”

Tarr earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of the Holy Cross, and master’s and doctoral degrees, both in political science, from the University of Chicago.

He says that in retirement, he plans to travel and continue his work on a book on the people’s continuing role in American constitutionalism.

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