Accountants Pay Tribute to Their Favorite Professors

CPAs and other professionals remember the mentors who shaped their careers.

Samiha Khanna

September 12, 2017

A new academic year means fresh faces in the classroom and new opportunities to inspire students to discover their talents in accounting and start on the path to an exciting career. If you ever have doubts about the impact educators have on students, talk to an accountant: Most of them can name at least one faculty member whose advice and encouragement made them the people they are today. In that spirit, we asked accounting professionals to share their memories with us. Here are some of them:

A conversation sparks a career 


Photo credit: Lou Orchard

“My favorite accounting educator is Lou Orchard, CPA, Ph.D., at Clayton State University,” Travis Tuggle, an accounting manager with SunTrust Bank in Atlanta, wrote. “I was always impressed by his level of professionalism and preparation, even down to what he wore to class (he always wears a fedora and a suit).

“He started off every class with a joke, and was the most prepared professor I’ve ever seen,” Tuggle, who is currently pursuing CPA licensure, remembered. “But I’ll never forget the day he inspired me to become an accountant. He saw me sitting in the University Center studying for an exam, and took the time to come sit with me and chat for probably an hour and shared his story of becoming an accountant. That left an impression on me, and I’ll always appreciate him for that .”

A career connector


Photo credit: Gary Weber

“My favorite accounting professor is Gary Weber, Ph.D., at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington,” Lindsay Stevenson, CPA, CGMA, told us. “Dr. Weber taught both my undergraduate- and graduate-level tax courses, and he made tax law fun!

“He inspired me to seek out a tax position after I graduated, even though I didn’t have a master’s degree in tax,” wrote Stevenson, vice president of finance at 1st Financial Bank USA in North Sioux City, S.D. “To top it all off, I told him I was having a hard time finding anything but audit jobs (at the time I had two toddlers and didn’t think I could handle the travel schedule) so he connected me with a firm in Arizona and helped me land a tax position! He is responsible for kicking off my career and inspiring me to love the accounting profession .” 

CPA Exam expertise was a boon to students


Photo credit: David Lavin

“My most memorable professor was David Lavin, CPA, Ph.D., at Florida International University,” Albert Aguiar, CPA, wrote.

“Dr. Lavin could make the complex simple and had a tremendous love for teaching accounting. In my view, he was a genius. I had auditorium classes with him and saw him on a flight about 20 years after I sat in his classes, and he remembered me.”

Lavin passed his CPA Exam expertise on to his students, recalled Aguiar, managing director at Aguiar Cabrera Maceo & Co. LLP in Miami Lakes, Fla.: “My wife and sister were also students of his. He wrote test questions for the CPA Exam and taught a CPA review course. Of six friends I knew who took the exam during that time, five of us passed on the first try .” 


Photo credit: Lipscomb University

“My earliest accounting mentor was Axel Swang, CPA, Ph.D., at Lipscomb University,” wrote Perry Moore, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D., now a professor of accounting at Lipscomb University in Nashville. “When he retired in 1992, he had taught at Lipscomb for 44 of the university’s first 101 years. In fact, he delayed his retirement by one semester so I could return to Lipscomb with my Ph.D. fully defended. When I first started to work for Dr. Swang in 1985, he reminded me of Lipscomb’s legacy and the importance of accounting to the institution.”

Swang also encouraged Moore to become involved with a professional organization, advice Moore was later able to share with his own students. “Encouraging me to get involved professionally provided me with leadership opportunities, in a variety of roles, much sooner than I would have been able to advance to at Lipscomb,” he noted. “Today, I encourage my students to get involved either professionally or with a local nonprofit organization as soon as they graduate. Many feel compelled to give back, and I remind them of the opportunities they can obtain at an earlier age .” 

Real-world experience benefits students

“My most memorable professor was Ray MacFee  at the University of Colorado–Boulder, in part because of the real-life examples we learned in class,” Shelly R. Gallegos, CPA, wrote. “He focused a lot on group discussion rather than just memorizing a textbook.”

MacFee, a former partner with a Big Eight firm, frequently drew upon real-world anecdotes in the classroom.

“The following year, 1990, as an accountant at Deloitte & Touche, I did many inventory observations, and during these observations/counts I always thought of what we learned in Professor MacFee’s auditing class and how the client could misstate inventory,” noted Gallegos, now a consultant in Denver.

“He treated us like adults and respected us,” she wrote. “We all knew we were truly learning to be better auditors, accountants, and professionals. I keep in touch with three other friends who had Professor MacFee, and he was their favorite teacher, too. His class also was very helpful in passing the auditing part of the CPA Exam.”

These inspiring memories show the impact a teacher’s mentorship can have long beyond graduation day.

Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article, email lead editor Courtney Vien.