Tyler Junior College and TJC professor Patricia Coplan were among those recognized during the Smith County Bar Association’s 2023 Law Day.
Held Friday, May 5, at Hollytree Country Club, the event honored those who have made significant contributions to Smith County through their leadership, service to the community, legal professionalism, and ethics.
Patricia Coplan — Legal Professional of the Year
Coplan, professor and coordinator of the TJC Paralegal program, was awarded the Legal Professional of the Year Award by the Tyler Area Association of Legal Professionals.
Coplan joined the TJC Paralegal program 10 years ago. A graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, she has lived in Tyler since 1981 and has practiced law and worked in education for over 25 years.
She is a member of the Tyler Area Association of Legal Professionals, the State Bar of Texas, the Smith County Bar Association, and the College of the State Bar of Texas. She is a life fellow of the Smith County Bar Foundation, fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and a Smith County Bar Foundation’s President’s Circle member, and former director of the Smith County Bar Foundation.
“Professor Coplan is an exceptional leader as the program director and coordinator, and she is constantly working hard to make sure the program is improved each year to meet the challenging demands of our growing profession,” said Barbara Skeen, certified paralegal, who presented Coplan with the award on behalf of the Tyler Area Association of Legal Professionals. “I have seen firsthand her commitment to making sure that the graduates of the program meet or exceed her expectations.”
Skeen continued, “To say that Professor Coplan is exceptional is an understatement. Our organization has awarded this recognition annually since 1997, in recognition of the recipient’s outstanding contributions — not only to the paralegal profession but to the legal community and to our profession. This is the first year of our program that we have bestowed this award to a non-paralegal. That should tell how exceptionally we view her.”
Coplan said, “I still haven’t found the words to communicate how much being selected Legal Professional of the Year means to me. I consider it the highest honor I’ve ever received, and I will be forever grateful to Barbara Skeen and the officers and members of TAALP.”
TJC — Cristy Arscott Liberty Bell Award
“To receive the Cristy Arscott Liberty Bell Award, the candidate’s service must have promoted a better understanding of government and the law, encouraged a greater respect for the law and the courts, stimulated a deeper sense of personal responsibility, and contributed to the effective functioning of our institutions. TJC has satisfied all of those criteria,” said Margaret Hussey, retired attorney for the Texas Twelfth Court of Appeals and former TJC Paralegal program faculty member.
“As a former TJC student and former full-time faculty member, I am honored to introduce Tyler Junior College today as the 2023 recipient of this most prestigious award.”
Hussey continued, “The administration of justice is essential to our society, and education is critical to the American system of justice. The justice system cannot function properly if those who are a part of it are not well trained and educated. By the same token, it is also critical that the people served by the justice system understand how it works and support it. TJC provides the necessary education for both groups.”
She described how TJC’s criminal justice and paralegal programs relate directly to the justice system.
“The faculty members for each of these programs are highly qualified, experienced professionals who are committed to training and educating their students,” she said, “and the paralegal classes are taught by licensed attorneys. In both programs, the curriculums are up to date and critical thinking is imperative. Prospective employers can rely on the credentials of these students.”
She commended TJC for its emphasizing to students that it is their duty to be informed and responsible citizens.
“TJC’s mission to educate extends well beyond its classrooms,” she said. “TJC was founded in 1926, based on the premise that access to higher education can change lives; but the proper education of those who are part of the justice system and those who rely on it can actually save lives.
“Thank you, TJC, for the benefit you provide, and have provided for decades, for the system of justice in our community. Your recognition is well deserved.”
TJC President and CEO Dr. Juan E. Mejia said, “On behalf of the College community, I express my most sincere appreciation to the Smith County Bar Association and the Smith County Bar Foundation for selecting TJC as the recipient of the prestigious Cristy Arscott Liberty Bell Award and for recognizing TJC Professor and Coordinator Patricia Coplan with the TAALP Legal Professional of the Year. We also express our deepest gratitude to Margaret Hussey and Barbara Skeen for providing the introductions to these awards.”
Mejia continued, “It has been an honor to see these organizations continue to flourish through the strategic work by Micah John Tarry, SCBA president; Jennifer Ainsworth, SCBF president; and Denise Hawk, SCBA and SCBF executive director. We look forward to strengthening the relationship between TJC and our colleagues and friends from these fine organizations.”