Dr. L. Howard Godfrey is Professor of Accounting at UNC Charlotte and past Chair of the Department of Accounting. He is receiving the 2015 UNC Charlotte Distinguished Faculty Award and is a past recipient of the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence.
What was your interest in joining UNC Charlotte and the Belk College of Business?
When I interviewed for the job and met the Accounting faculty members, I found them to be very friendly. I knew I would enjoy working with them. I also realized that UNC Charlotte would be a great environment in which I could build a very satisfying career.
What have been some of your highlights (professional and personal) over the years?
Certainly receiving the Distinguished Faculty Award is a highlight of my career. Another highlight was receiving the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence. That gave me the wonderful feeling that many others considered my work to be worthy of recognition. I was recognized with this award because many current and former students expressed their appreciation for my teaching and for my guidance. Professors and administrators also submitted recommendations on my behalf. Receiving that award was definitely a mountaintop experience.
Add to that the opportunity I had to serve as Chair of the Accounting Department for six years. It was a great privilege to work with our team of outstanding accounting faculty members, and build on the legacy left by Tom Turner.
After serving as an administrator for six years, I was granted a six-month sabbatical to be used as a learning and professional development experience. In that six-month period, I worked as a volunteer staff member for the Tax Division of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). I was a registered lobbyist and was involved in lobbying Congress regarding changes in the tax law. However, my primary activities included attending briefings by the Treasury Department and the IRS, attending Congressional committee hearings, analyzing proposed changes in the tax law, and helping the AICPA develop recommendations for changes in the tax law. These AICPA recommendations result in a tax law that can be administered more efficiently, with fewer traps and fewer burdensome compliance requirements for taxpayers. Having been involved in the making of the tax law gives me valuable insights that I can incorporate in my tax classes, adding clarity as to the purpose and impact of many of our tax laws.
While working for the AICPA, I provided administrative support for the International Tax Committee. Later, I was appointed to that committee and was a member for three years. As a committee member, I conducted research on international tax law and issues, and wrote a number of articles that have been published in The Tax Adviser, a monthly tax publication of the AICPA for tax professionals.
In the mid-1980s, I had the privilege of serving as advisor for Beta Alpha Psi which is the honorary accounting fraternity. Beta Alpha Psi provides leadership opportunities for our students and also connects our students with alumni who recruit for their companies.
For about 25 years I planned and coordinated an annual picnic that brings together students approaching graduation with alumni and other employers. Students are able to meet these employers in a relaxed, fun environment and get to know them before the official “on-campus” recruiting season begins. The annual picnic is now sponsored by Beta Alpha Psi under the leadership of Dr. Pat Mynatt.
Helping students get jobs is a self-perpetuating process. Today, a student obtains a job with a company. Later that individual (graduate) will notify us that the company needs to hire additional accountants. I share job announcements with current students and alumni who are on my “jobs” email list. That leads to another wave of students getting jobs. This activity at the Department level supplements the work of the University Career Center, which manages the “on-campus” recruiting process.
Since 1994, I have been the faculty advisor or coach for our student teams that compete at regional and national levels in a tax competition that is now sponsored by Deloitte. My role has been to identify important tax issues and challenges facing business today and help our students learn the applicable tax laws so they can provide advice for hypothetical clients in the annual tax competition. I’ve worked with great students who have succeeded in the regional competition and moved on to the national finals over a dozen times since 1994. It’s a learning experience for the students, and it is also a learning experience for the faculty.
Sometimes a small project leads to a much bigger project. My work in public accounting had included preparation of tax returns for many non-profit organizations. I decided to learn a lot more about the tax law applicable to these organizations by conducting extensive research and writing a journal article summarizing the tax law in this area. After publishing the tax article in a professional journal, an editor for Prentice-Hall, Inc. offered me a contract to expand the article into a reference book for CPAs and attorneys. Three years later, in 1983, my book entitled Handbook on Tax-Exempt Organizations was published by Prentice-Hall. Writing the book was a great learning experience, and publication of the book was a milestone in my career.
What classes do you teach? How many students have gone through your classes (approximately)?
In my early years here, I taught tax courses, as well as our accounting courses and our auditing course. Soon I began to specialize in the tax area and have taught mainly tax courses in the latter half of my career here. I often teach a total of 200 or more students per year in our degree programs, counting the regular school year and summer school. So that number could be about 8,000 or higher. I have taught several thousand adult students in various continuing education programs over the years. So it is safe to assume that the total number exceeds (or greatly exceeds) 10,000 students.
What are some of your best memories in terms of contributions to the profession?
In the late 1970s, I served on the Continuing Professional Education Committee of the North Carolina Association of CPAs. I also served as a consultant to the North Carolina Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners. The State had enacted a law that would require all CPAs to have 40 hours of continuing education each year. I was an advisor to the board, helping write the regulations to implement the new law.
The Belk College of Business obtained the major contract with the North Carolina State Board of Education, under which a team of faculty members developed a state-of-the-art education program for School Finance Officers and their finance department staff members. I was fortunate to be one of the four faculty members designing and delivering this program. We developed learning objectives and wrote course materials for 18 one-day and two-day courses on accounting, financial management, and legal topics of interest to those in the field of school finance. Then, we taught those courses at various locations throughout the state of North Carolina.
In 1981, Congress made major changes in the tax law. Dr. Sak Bhamornsiri suggested that we develop a one-day course on changes in the law affecting individuals and another one-day course on changes affecting business operations. That became the annual tax update series, and we taught our 34th annual tax update classes for CPAs and attorneys this past December. Over the years, we offered various courses focused on specialty areas such as Taxation of S Corporations. However it is the “tax update” series that continues to serve tax professionals in the Charlotte area and beyond.
For several years, I taught in a summer tax program at the University of Illinois, which was sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs. Students in the program were recent graduates of accounting programs, and were in the early years of their tax careers with corporations and accounting firms. The program was reviewed regularly by experienced CPAs and it was revised as needed to assure that the courses met the needs of practicing accountants.
I have developed specialized courses in accounting and taxation for a wide variety of organizations including: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, BB&T, Duke Energy, Southland Seven-Eleven, Vulcan Corporation, The Poynter Institute, Helicopter Manufacturer Association, and a substantial number of Accounting Firms.
How would you describe UNC Charlotte’s connection to Charlotte, and how is it personally important to you?
In my 40 years here, I have seen UNC Charlotte and the City of Charlotte “grow up” together. Charlotte has become a major metropolitan area. The University has aggressively pursued its mission of meeting a wide range of needs in the Charlotte metropolitan area, and far beyond. In that process, UNC Charlotte has developed academic programs that are recognized for their excellence at the regional, national and international levels.
Who have been your mentors and inspiration in your profession?
The mentor having the greatest impact on my career here is Tom Turner who started the accounting department in the 1960s and hired me to join the faculty in 1975. Tom is an amazing individual who places top priority on giving students a top quality education in the classroom so they will be prepared for outstanding careers. He encouraged students to commit to the highest ethical standards in their personal and professional lives. He also assisted them financially by providing scholarships. He was there to help them and they needed encouragement, and he helped many hundreds of students land their first accounting jobs upon graduation. And he maintained contact with many of the alumni throughout their careers.
I was fortunate to have Tom as a mentor and to be able to adopt his priorities and work with a team of highly qualified and very dedicated accounting faculty members who shared those priorities as well. So you can say that my fellow accounting faculty members were also very important mentors for me whether we were working together to team-teach a course, supporting student organizations that provide leadership development opportunities for our students or simply sharing our ideas about best practices.
Another important mentor for me is Dr. Richard Conboy. He led a team of faculty members in a groundbreaking project that involved preparing professional development courses and teaching those courses for finance officers in the public schools throughout the state of North Carolina. I had the opportunity to work under his direction on that project, including writing and teaching many of the courses, and learned a lot from him. Later I was able to serve as chair of the accounting department for six years. Dr. Conboy was associate dean and served as my immediate supervisor. He was a source of guidance and helped me succeed in that role.
Another important part of my personal development has been my engagement with students and alumni. Students raise very interesting tax questions in class, leading to instructor research to locate the answer to those questions. Alumni provide insights into issues currently facing businesses.