Howard Levy Remembers Samuel Person, 'a True Icon of Our Profession'

By:
Howard B. Levy
Published Date:
Nov 13, 2017

Sam Person

On November 11, 2017, a true icon of our profession, a practitioner and a legendary educator of other professionals, Sam Person, passed away at age 86. Probably thousands of Long Island CPAs remember Sam mainly as their teacher, either in one of the CPA examination review classes he led for 30 years or at C.W. Post (part of LIU) or Dowling College. A highly respected, beloved mentor, colleague and dear friend to generations of Long Island CPAs, Sam was a man of great vision, passion and tenacity. And if nothing else, he was bluntly outspoken. He was the founder and first president of the Suffolk Chapter of the NYSSCPA, the “father of our chapter,” as one of its later presidents put it.

In the late 1960s, Sam noticed that many young CPAs—many employed by the large firms that were just beginning to set up shop in western Suffolk County—were, likewise, moving east because of the county’s more affordable housing and easier commutes. He also observed that the Society’s then Nassau/Suffolk Chapter was dominated largely by older, deeply entrenched practitioners, and that it afforded little or no opportunities for younger CPAs based in Suffolk County to network with colleagues, develop themselves and serve the profession.

On May 12, 1971, Sam gathered about 35 Suffolk County practitioners at Dowling College and presented his vision for a separate chapter of the Society for Suffolk. Looking back in 2012 on that event, Sam said, “It was an idea whose time had come.” And after obtaining unanimous support for his idea from the group gathered in 1971, Sam’s strong leadership and sharp wit were apparent in his next few words. He said, “Now, who wants to be vice president?”

Today, the Suffolk Chapter has grown to well over 2,000 members and 17 committees, and it is among the most active of the Society’s 15 chapters. In 2012, Sam said, “Even though I have been in the background for many years now, I am proud to see the evolution and success of the chapter.”

Sam was passionate about a great deal more than the accounting profession, not the least of which was community service. He once wrote that his personal philosophy was that “Every individual should become all that he or she is capable of being, and never lose sight of the need to devote some time to helping others.”

In addition to his tireless and dedicated service to the Suffolk Chapter that he founded and the Society where he served on its Board of Directors, Sam was active in local politics and served as comptroller of Long Island’s town of Brookhaven. He co-founded and served as president of his synagogue in Stony Brook, and was a board member and chairman of St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Sam was a patron of the arts and something of a Renaissance man; he was also always interested in writing. Early in this century, after he retired, Sam wrote a series of entertaining online essays, solely for his own pleasure, about subjects that interested him. Sam’s essay collection can still be accessed online here. Among the primary subjects that Sam wrote about back then were politics—including many pieces about topics that are in the news today—and sports.

Indeed, Sam was an avid sports fan—University of Connecticut basketball and, most particularly, New York Yankees baseball. In his youth, he dreamed of being a sportswriter, and many of his colorful online essays are about baseball.

Sam was also a family man, devoted to Joan, his lovely wife of 63 years; their two sons, Larry and Louis; and his three grandchildren.

Howard B. Levy, CPA, is a principal and director of technical services at Piercy Bowler Taylor & Kern, Las Vegas, Nev., and an independent technical consultant to other professionals. He is a former member of the AICPA's Auditing Standards Board and its Accounting Standards Executive Committee, and a current member of its Center for Audit Quality's Smaller Firms Task Force. He is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Advisory Board.

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