#25Faces: Thomas C. Mackey, PhD

(April 25, 2016) LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The McConnell Center is celebrating 25 years of excellence in higher education in 2016. As part of our yearlong effort to honor those 25 years, we are profiling “25 Faces” of faculty, friends and McConnell Scholar alumni.
#25Faces: Thomas C. Mackey, PhD

Mackey, second from left, with the 2016 McConnell Center debate society.

Thomas Mackey, PhD, UofL history professor and McConnell Center Fellow, is the fifth profile in our series.

Occasionally, a university professor goes above and beyond the call of duty by offering unparalleled mentorship and guidance to students. For McConnell Scholars throughout the years, Thomas C. Mackey has been that mentor.

Just ask the numerous Scholars and alumni who have worked with him, and they will tell you: they wouldn’t be where they are today without Dr. Mackey.

“There is no one who was more influential in my education path, and there are few who have had greater impact on my life trajectory than Dr. Thomas Mackey,” said Mike Adams (’98), an attorney who attended Harvard Law School with Mackey’s support and encouragement.

“He said, ‘Think big, don’t limit yourself—you could go to Harvard.’ I’m from McCracken County and was on track to be the first in my family with a bachelor’s degree; the notion of going to Harvard was laughable,” Adams said. “As it happens, due to his encouragement and prodding, I did well on the LSAT, and with his assistance in the application process, I did in fact get into Harvard Law and have had a successful career.”

Mackey’s support for the postgraduate ambitions of McConnell Scholars has not waned over the past two decades. Victoria Allen (’16) calls Mackey the mentor she always hoped for when becoming a McConnell Scholar.

“He pushed me to dream bigger than my original law school: he pushed me to shoot for one of the preeminent legal educations in the English-speaking world,” said Allen, who will attend the University of Michigan Law School in the fall.

“Dr. Mackey tempers aggressive realism with a passionate belief that McConnell Scholars are some of the brightest students that Kentucky has to offer,” she said.

Evan Shepherd (’14), who is completing his second year at the New York University School of Law, had similar guidance as he navigated his path to law school.

“Dr. Mackey helped with everything from writing my personal statement to helping me decide which schools to apply to,” said Shepherd. “Although I made the decision on where to go alone, Dr. Mackey did predict I would choose NYU from day one.”

Mackey’s assistance with the McConnell Scholar Moot Court Team was also invaluable in Shepherd’s pre-law education.

“Without the training in moot court, I would not have been as good at reading cases when I started law school,” he said. “You had to constantly be on-point with Dr. Mackey in the room, or you would end up embarrassed. It was good motivation, because there is a similar vibe in the law school classroom.”

Mackey has served as a guest judge for UofL’s only undergraduate moot court team since 2008.

“Dr. Mackey has always been willing to dedicate as much of his free time as necessary to help prepare our teams. His understanding of the law and case precedent, and his ability to break it down into consumable pieces, are traits that are absolutely essential for the McConnell Scholars,” said head coach Neil Salyer (’00).

In addition to his extracurricular support, Mackey’s work in the classroom has benefited UofL history students for the past 25 years.

“He never lost his zest for encouraging his students to study history and think how the world around us was shaped.  And his own love for history rubbed off on his students,” said Kirk Laughlin (’09). “He put the ‘story’ in history, and was able to weave that story into a bigger narrative about human society and human nature.”

Since 1991, Mackey has researched and taught classes in the fields of U.S. legal history and constitutional law in the UofL history department.

He holds a B.A. from Beloit College, a Ph.D. from Rice University and was a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in legal history at New York University. He also teaches a course in legal history at UofL’s Brandeis School of Law.

In 2014, Mackey was selected by the McConnell Scholars to receive the Chris Mattingly Award for Outstanding Community Leadership in Kentucky, which recognizes individuals who reflects exceptional character and leadership benefitting the Commonwealth.