MBA-PA Alumni Testimonials

Class of '64 alum Robert K. Elliott remarks on Rutgers' return-on-investment

Golden and Silver Raider Society Induction Ceremony and Brunch, Rutgers—Newark
April 12, 2014

In the spring of 1963, I was about to graduate from Harvard College. I had no idea where my life was headed, but I figured wherever it was, I’d be better off if I could read a balance sheet and an income statement. So I took a survey course in accounting.

One day, the professor introduced a guest lecturer — a distinguished looking man with a mane of silver hair — William von Minden from Rutgers. After giving an excellent lecture, he launched into a description of his Rutgers MBA program in Public Accounting. Finding that I was good at accounting and really enjoyed it — and having no obvious employment opportunities — I decided to matriculate.

I graduated from Harvard on a Thursday in June and started at Rutgers the following Monday. When I met my new classmates, I found that they had nearly all been recruited by von Minden as well.

Bill von Minden was a far-seeing man who recognized that the profession of accountancy would benefit from the inclusion of broadly educated critical thinkers and set out to do something about it. So he designed an MBA program in public accounting for liberal arts majors, recruited for it, taught in it, and managed it. Not only was he a professor at Rutgers, but he ran his own prestigious accounting firm in New Jersey and had even authored an accounting textbook. Needless to say, we students held him in considerable awe.

At that time, the school was in the former Eagle Fire Insurance Building at 18 Washington Place, just across Washington Park from today’s business school. Tuition for an out-of-state student was only $500 a semester. My MBA class had 47 members: one eighth from Rutgers, one fourth from the Ivy League, and the rest from 21 other respected liberal arts colleges.

Consistent with Bill von Minden’s objective, at the end of the program seven-eighths of us found jobs in public accounting.

Von Minden turned out to be prescient in his focus on critical thinking, because the next fifty years saw the most incredible changes in the economy in two centuries.

Why? Because of something that happened just 14 miles from here in 1947: the invention of the transistor at Bell Labs — the most significant technological and economic development of the 20th century.

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Retired PricewaterhouseCoopers partner and Class of '68 alum, Eugene Gaughan, credits Rutgers and Professor von Minden for his success

Although I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey, my first contact with Rutgers occurred in New England in the academic year of 1966-67.  I was a senior at Holy Cross planning to attend law school and, based on the advice of several local attorneys known to my mother who was employed by the Paterson Municipal Court, I was taking “Accounting 101” as an elective course.  One fine day, Bill von Minden was permitted by our professor to visit the class, speak about his Rutgers program and invited anyone interested to visit him and a Rutgers alumnus who was with him to discuss the program in more detail.  I did enjoy the basic accounting I was studying and was wondering how my parents and I would ever be able to pay for three years of law school. So, I relished the thought of putting Rutgers on my radar screen.

Over the next vacation period, I visited 18 Washington Place, met some students and visited a partner of one of the big eight’s Newark office.  At that time, the program had fourteen “cooperating firms”, all of the big eight as well as six other well regarded national and New Jersey firms.  Professor von Minden had set up a program whereby each of these firms contributed scholarship money. In return, they received the right to interview every student and consider offering an internship.  Students were required to interview all the firms, but left to decide for themselves what internship or permanent offer to accept.

Another vivid memory I have of von Minden, is the Accounting Theory course he taught. He had been a member of the Accounting Research Board (“ARB”) of the American Institute of CPAs which had then recently issued ARB 43, the codification of all the standards which had gone before.  The ARB was the accounting rule making body prior to the Accounting Principles Board (“APB”) and, later, the current Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”).

When I was at Rutgers, the APB had only issued APBs 1-11. The course was structured so that each week, the class covered one of the significant areas of accounting theory (e.g., leases, income taxes, foreign currency, investment tax credit, revenue). The course met twice a week.  For the first class, a topic and related advanced reading was assigned and von Minden led a discussion of the history, current theory and practice.  In the second class, a guest, usually a member of the ARB or APB well known to him, came to the class to provide insight as to current standards evolved, were debated, and set.  It was perhaps the best class I ever had – at Rutgers or elsewhere!

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Very demanding but very rewarding; MBA-PA alum William Parfitt, Jr. shares his experience

My experience with the Rutgers MBA program started, as expected, with my undergraduate studies at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Like many new students, my future career ambitions were not focused. After starting my studies in the natural sciences to perhaps be a doctor or a dentist, it took some time to realize neither my desire nor aptitude lie in this area. As a result, with less than perfect grades, I became a Psychology major as a junior.

After my junior year, I decided to remain in Allentown and take a summer job at Bethlehem Steel. In order to occupy my spare time, I decided to take Introduction to Accounting and Introduction to Taxes at Muhlenberg. It turned out to be the most important career decision of my life. I was doing extremely well in both courses, so well in fact that my accounting instructor called me to his office after class and showed me some information about an intensive program at Rutgers which led to an MBA in Accounting. It was a perfect fit. After taking the aptitude tests and graduating from undergrad, I entered Rutgers in May of 1970. While the program was very demanding, it was also very rewarding. After graduating near the top of my class, I spent a few years in Public Accounting, started a career in audit in the Construction Materials business and earned my CPA.

Due to the education I obtained at Rutgers, my wife and I have lived in several states as during my career I held many positions in both accounting and finance as well as in operations.

I retired last year as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Calportland Company, a major supplier of construction materials in the Western United States after a tremendously rewarding career and my wife and I can travel more and spend time with children and Grandchildren.

Thank You Rutgers!