The 2019 NYSSCPA Awards: Public Service Award Winner Steven Morse Has Been a Lifelong Community Volunteer

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
May 13, 2019

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NYSSCPA member Steven M. Morse, the recipient of this year’s Arthur J. Dixon Public Service Award, is passionate about volunteering. While this could describe many people, the sheer scope and scale of his volunteer activities over the years would be difficult to match, especially considering his having to balance them with his career and family life.

For example, he served on the board of the Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) for 14 years, where, at different points in time, he was treasurer, vice president and president, as well as a member of the board’s Executive, Finance and Education committees.

“My wife and I have a son who is deaf, and as soon as we identified him as being deaf, I was hungry for any opportunity to better understand deaf culture and deaf education, in particular,” he said. When his son was old enough to start school, Morse spoke with RSD and expressed his own interest in helping.

During his time there, he pressed hard for more community engagement with the board. He spearheaded the development of regular town hall meetings, as well as set up committees and task forces aimed at improving communications with people in the deaf community. 

Morse worked as the assistant vice president for finance and budget at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), from 2014 to 2017. He then joined The Bonadio Group as a principal, where he now leads the firm’s Higher Education Internal Audit practice.

He is also a member of the board of the Hochstein School of Music and Dance, serving on the finance committee. He said he was looking for another volunteer opportunity, and since he had always been interested in music—he plays saxophone, among other instruments—he thought it would be a wonderful organization to serve.

“I’d never been involved in a leadership position in the arts, and in music in particular, so I thought it was a great opportunity to get involved and see how I might contribute there,” he said.

Morse has also been very interested in helping develop the next generation of CPAs. Over the past eight years, he has been a member of the Accounting Advisory Board at RIT’s Saunders College of Business, three years of which, so far, have been spent as chair. The board is an avenue for working professionals to become directly involved in the school by lending their experience and guidance to aspiring accountants, CPA-track and non–CPA-track students alike, as well as to accounting program leadership and college administration in the areas of curriculum, program marketing and emerging issues, to name a few. During his time there, he has played a part in developing a student mentoring program; fall and spring social events for students, faculty and board members; and an annual banquet for those in the college’s accounting programs.

“We really want the accounting students to feel that they are part of something  outstanding, and that is being a Saunders accounting student and working toward becoming part of a challenging and meaningful profession. We encourage them to build their network, even as a freshman in college,” he said.

Morse is also a highly active NYSSCPA member, having joined as soon as he got his license in the early ’90s. He has served, among other positions, as treasurer, vice president and as a member of the executive board of the Rochester Chapter, as well as a chapter representative on the statewide board of directors, and as a Foundation for Accounting Education trustee. 

“It just opened up a whole new perspective and view for me, seeing the profession through the eyes of the State Society and understanding everything the State Society does for its members,” he said.

Beyond board positions, Morse’s volunteer experience also includes a number of hands-on positions, including volunteer firefighter. That was actually his very first volunteer experience: He joined his local fire company at 18 and went into a few burning buildings over his five years there.

When asked why he didn’t get frightened and freeze up while doing so, he laughed and said, “I was 18 years old at the time.”

He continued firefighting in a new town shortly after getting married, but eventually had to resign due to increasing work demands. He decided to start doing it again about six years ago, however, after his family moved back to his hometown of Penfield, where he first started firefighting. He was elected as a fire commissioner for his fire district three years ago and just completed a two-year term as the fire company’s president. Now that he’s a little older, he usually doesn’t go into burning buildings and mostly drives the fire company’s aerial ladder truck, while assisting his fellow commissioners in managing the business side of things for the fire district. But he has still had “one or two” occasions when he needed to go inside.

“We have very good training in the fire company, so you gain a level of confidence so you can do what’s expected of you. And you’re never alone. It’s always a team effort, so you’re always with other firefighters for safety. So, it depends on who you are, but it’s not that daunting a thing,” he said.

Morse also has spent five years volunteering at Shepherd Home, a hospice comfort care home, where he looked after terminally ill patients. At the time, he said, most of what he was doing was serving on various boards that drew on his professional experience, but he wanted something different that was more hands-on in nature. He expressed this desire to his son’s baseball coach, who then put him in touch with Shepherd Home.

“You did everything you could imagine would be needed to care for and help those folks who were terminally ill,” he said.  

Among all of these volunteer activities, Morse has also volunteered at the New York Museum of Transportation, in the Rochester suburb of Rush, for the past 20 years. He has served in various capacities, such as staffing the ticket desk or the gift shop, maintaining financial records, and serving on the board.

“My father was a volunteer at the museum and had restored a Casey Jones speeder, and through his involvement there, I got to know some of the folks and wanted to help out in some way, so I inquired about becoming involved,” he said.

Morse explained that he cut his board member teeth with the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, a local historical organization in Rochester that showcases the home of the iconic women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony. In fact, he spent 20 years volunteering for this organization in a variety of capacities.  “Susan B. Anthony was an incredible individual, and being part of this organization was truly inspiring,” he said. 

Through it all, he said that he has been able to do what he’s done because of an extremely supportive and understanding family.

“There’s no way I could have volunteered as much as I have in the past 30 years without my wife and family’s support,” Morse said. “They’re just integral, so really, they’re volunteers as well; they’re volunteering to give up time with me so that I can do things I believe are meaningful.”

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