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Pepperdine Remembers Professor Tony “Skippy” McDermott

Professor Tony McDermott, who taught at Pepperdine University School of Law since 1982, passed away on June 1, 2010, at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, California. He was surrounded by family and loved ones.

A much-beloved professor, McDermott, known to generations of students as "Skippy," taught broadly across the curriculum, including in the areas of contracts, business planning, civil procedure, tax, corporations, and sports law. He earned the University's highest honor for teaching in 1995 when Pepperdine recognized him as a Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Fellow.

Tom Bost, interim dean, remembered Professor McDermott as “an excellent classroom teacher, a caring mentor for generations of students, and a loving and devoted father.” “Tony cultivated countless friendships, and was blessed with the gift of a precise and accurate memory: with seeming ease, he could remember names, dates, times, jobs, births, and deaths. I pray God’s blessings on all of those who loved Tony,” says Bost.

Throughout his twenty-eight years at Pepperdine, Professor McDermott’s mentorship of students extended beyond the classroom. He relished the opportunity to spend time with students and often hosted students in his home. He also served as the director of Pepperdine’s Overseas Program from 1997 to 2000 and taught in the law school’s London Program on multiple occasions.

Born in 1939, Professor McDermott earned a BA and LLB from the University of California, Los Angeles. His first position in legal education was as the assistant dean of the UCLA School of Law, where one of his primary responsibilities was to establish the UCLA Legal Education Opportunity Program, the first of its kind in the nation.

Prior to teaching at Pepperdine, he taught at the University of Denver, Loyola, Oregon, and Santa Clara law schools. He served on the board of trustees of the Law School Admissions Council, and as a consultant to the Council on Legal Education Opportunity and the Committee to Study the Bar Examination Process for the State Bar of California. He previously worked as a federal public defender, a California probate referee, and the business manager of a thoroughbred breeding and training farm.

Alumna Keri Sepulveda, a 1997 graduate of Pepperdine, reflects on the legacy of her friend and former professor. “Professor McDermott was a true servant leader. He exemplified the values of dedication, integrity and, above all, concern for fellow man,” she says. “He inspired me to give greater thought and deliberation to all my work as an attorney, to diligently apply the law with a sense of kindness and conscience.”

Professor Doug Kmiec, who currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to Malta, remembers his colleague and friend. “Skip was a man of integrity and fairness. He cared deeply about his students, his colleagues, and the reputation of the institution. His open door, sonorous voice, and ever-present Irish wit will be my memory of him.”

Professor McDermott is survived by his son, Tim McDermott, a 2007 graduate of Pepperdine School of Law.

A memorial service was held on June 9.

Two funds have been established in honor of Professor McDermott: a fund to benefit UCLA athletics and a student scholarship fund at Pepperdine School of Law. For more information, please contact

Share a Memory of Professor McDermott


Oct 7 2010 3:59PM

Wallace L. Walker

I am stunned. I was a member of the first UCLA LEOP group. It was Tony's confidence and belief that has allowed me to practice law for almost 40-years. Even today, I never appear in a courtroom without thinking ot Tony and not disappointing him. I hope he knew what he meant to me and countless others. May God credit him for all the good he did.


Aug 30 2010 8:28PM

Ken Speigel

I was saddened to hear about the loss of Professor McDermott. I fondly recall our Tax Practice and Procedure class where he would time and time again challenge us with his quick wit and recitations of the various tax codes and revenue rulings. To hear Tony calling out "Mr. Speigel" brings back memories of a man who was never at a loss for kind words.


Aug 16 2010 8:52PM

Lauren Lofton

Truly sad to hear about Skippy. I appreciated all his efforts in helping me make it through Civil Procedure and law school. I will certainly miss him.


Aug 10 2010 2:25PM

Richard Stack

I am so sorry to hear of Professor McDermott's passing. I was not aware of his death until just now. I first came to know him at Loyola Law School when I was a student there and then in practice when he served as a California Probate Referee. We renewed our acquaintance at Pepperdine when I would visit from time to time on campus. It was always a pleasure to deal with Tony. He always displayed such a positive spirit. My condolences to his family.


Jul 6 2010 8:58AM

Mark Petersen

A wonderful professor and mentor. I had Prof. McDermott for Taxation during my second year. He turned what I believed would be a miserable subject into a lively, stimulating course. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.


Jun 22 2010 7:42PM

Steve Golob

After not seeing him for over 10 years, I recently bumped into my old Civ Pro professor at the gym where we talked about old times, mutual friends, life, family and our new shared community - we were neighbors! It was great to catch up and I looked forward to more conversations. His death comes as a shock and leaves me feeling there was more to learn from a new friendship that was never to pass...


Jun 18 2010 10:59AM

Jim Terpanjian (Class of 2001)

I only had the pleasure of having Skippy has a professor one time but it was one of the most enjoyable classes I have ever taken. I took Mergers & Acquisitions in my 3rd year mostly because I had heard of Skippy's reputation and wanted to experience it first hand. I was not disappointed. It was one of the few classes in law school that I looked forward to every week because I knew I was going to be educated and entertained at the same time. Skippy had the ability to make a class feel like it was a conversation between colleagues as opposed to a professor lecturing to his students. Very few possess that ability and Skippy had it in spades. God rest your soul Skippy. We will all miss you.


Jun 9 2010 9:22AM

Brent Kampe

Only in retrospect can I recognize how lucky I was to have Skippy teach my first law school class. He eased us into the foreign language of Civ Pro, even delaying teaching jurisdiction for a semester, and he made a dry subject palatable to unschooled minds. Skippy's personal charms were remarkable as well: he cheerfully greeted many of his former students by name in the hallways, even if they never spoke in his class or went to his office hours. His warm, unassuming demeanor will forever be with Section A for the class of 2011, whether because he was the life of the party at Prof. Wendel's bbq, to which he took his "gf," or because of the time he sang "Little Boxes" in class.


Jun 9 2010 7:58AM

Daniel Robertson

Skippy loved to talk sports. I know nothing about sports, but when talking with Skippy he could include a person in any conversation. He brought levity to the driest subjects in law school--civil procedure and tax. He always had a smile for his students. When he had to take time off in 2008, he returned with his mind set never to retire because he loved teaching so much. His life ended too soon, but he spent his life doing what he loved. What he loved touched lives. I will miss Skippy, but I will never forget his friendship.


Jun 9 2010 7:48AM

Tomas Kuehn (1999)

Skippy, you were and are one of the most memorable characters of my education. Even though you gave me my lowest grade in law school, I learned a great deal from you. Mostly, though, you were a friend and pleasure to be around. High Tea, pubs and Buddy in London are wonderful memories. You touched countless people and will be missed.


Jun 9 2010 6:02AM

robert koenig, class of 1984

he was larger than life to me. he was my tax professor in 1983 and i knew nothing about tax/accounting/etc. he got me through it; because he was ALWAYS so friendly/caring/dedicated. what a great memory he would display. he most recently recalled that my great friend and 1984 classmate, robert keaster was 1 of the best tax students of his era (that was sure true, as he had tutored me). Professor McDermott was just a wonderful person who will always be missed. prayers, love, peace to him and his family.


Jun 9 2010 2:48AM

Mala Kapadia, 2002

I can't remember which subject I had him for- - but I remember how much I enjoyed his teaching style. I laughed while I learned...


Jun 8 2010 9:36PM

Kristen Lee - Class of 2005

Skippy will truly be missed. Although I still don't know if I understand the Erie Doctrine, I enjoyed Skippy's enthusiasm for civil procedure, and tax the following year. But my favorite memories of Skippy are the day we spent at Hollywood Park and the awesome karaoke extravaganza that he brought to my law school graduation party! He was such a fun-loving and sincere person, and I am so blessed to have gotten to know him. Goodbye, Skippy.


Jun 8 2010 5:23PM

Charlotte Lin

I will miss Professor McDermott dearly. I took both his tax and community property classes in the same semester. Skippy was always lively, and had a great sense of humor. He was kind and generous, and was a great teacher. Skippy quickly became my favorite professor in law school. Skippy told us the story of how he had a very inspirational professor named "Herbie" who was very approachable. He said that he goes by "Skippy" hoping that students will find him approachable too. I remember during Canned Immunity that he brought in a giant can of Skippy peanut butter, among many other goodies. I forgot to bring a can that day, and didn't have any cash on me at the time to purchase one, so he took a dollar out of his pocket to lend me. Skippy was also very patient. I never felt scared to ask questions in class, and he always took the time to explain things to me. He always has the students' best interest at heart. He would ask me what classes I am signed up for, and would make sure I am going towards the right direction for my future career path. I will always remember his stories. I always felt welcomed in his office, and I remember going to his office hours and he would take the time to talk about his life and his family. Skippy always put a smile on my face. I will definitely miss him.


Jun 8 2010 4:18PM

Kat Czech

I was lucky enough to have Skippy for Civ Pro my first year. From the very first class his kindness and humor made the anxiety and fear I was having about starting out law school greatly decrease. I do not think I could have handled such a difficult subject as well if I had not had him. He exhibited a genuine concern and warmth towards his students that I have always admired and appreciated. I feel blessed to have known and to have been taught by him.