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Celebrated magician’s latest feat is no trick; Tallon earns Ph.D.’s in complex worlds of academia and magic

By Kay Randall

College of Education graduate Michael Tallon will be earning two Ph.D.’s this spring — one in Foreign Language Education and another in magic.

Tallon, who teaches Spanish at The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, became intrigued with magic when he was in eighth grade and a friend showed him several card tricks. When Tallon’s birthday rolled around that year and he received some money, he went straight to the local magic shop and purchased an assortment of beginner’s tricks. When those had been mastered, it was back to the magic shop for more.

“Magic has several appeals, not the least of which is that it’s a unique hobby,” says Tallon, who describes himself as shy, quiet and reserved. “It’s fun to learn and perform. When you watch an audience experience magic live, you see this childlike wonder on their faces. The spectators are able to forget, if only briefly, their everyday problems and be astonished by what seems impossible.”

Over the years, Tallon has grown from an eager beginner into an award-winning, accomplished magician. He has taught several courses in magic and has been a member and/or officer in the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), the Society of American Magicians and the Texas Association of Magicians. He won Magician of the Year for the San Antonio branch of IBM with a particularly difficult coin trick. He has won several regional contests for expertise in “close-up” magic, and has performed in national and international competitions.

Although past laurels bring pride, it is his most recent honor — bestowed in Batavia, N.Y., at the annual Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic Convention this April — which emphasizes the fact that, magically speaking, he “has arrived.”

“Among magicians, Fechter’s is an extremely prestigious event,” says Tallon, “and one attended by invitation only. Each time you perform, you receive a degree. This year I’m scheduled to perform for the third time and get my ‘Ph.D. in magic.’ One can feel rather tense at the event because you’re performing in front of the best magicians in the world, and you always have to be prepared to perform in case you’re called upon. If ever you’re asked to perform and you refuse, you’re never invited again.”

Tallon obtained his “other Ph.D.” in the College of Education in two years and 10 months, when he worked full-time and commuted from San Antonio to Austin.

An exceptional scholar, Tallon was awarded a South Texas Graduate Fellowship for graduate studies in Foreign Language Education, received a University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Amber Award for outstanding contributions and service to UTSA students, and was part of a team that was awarded a $19,000 grant from UT-Austin to create English as a Second Language online lessons.

He also has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals, presented numerous papers at language conferences and completed a dissertation on foreign language anxiety in heritage students of Spanish.

(From On Campus at The University of Texas at Austin – May 12, 2006)


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