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The 2020 NYSSCPA Awards: Education Award Winner Jack Angel Focuses on ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Profession

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jun 29, 2020
Jack Angel

Jack Angel, an Adelphi University accounting professor and the winner of this year’s Dr. Emanuel Saxe Outstanding CPA in Education Award, did not originally plan to be an educator. Having just left a position as a hearing officer at the IRS—his first job out of college—Angel started building his own practice on Long Island. While he grew his business, he also began teaching at Adelphi University, as he had received his master’s degree through an IRS training program before leaving the service.

“I had an opportunity to teach at Adelphi, and said, ‘I’ll do this for two, three years—just enough time to build my practice,’” he said.

While his practice did eventually grow over the years into a thriving business, Angel eventually realized that he loved teaching. He loved the feeling he got when he’d speak in front of a room; he loved helping young people, many of whom were the first in their families to go to college, to flourish and develop; he loved breaking down complex issues into terms that students could understand. He no longer thought of himself as a practitioner with a teaching side gig—he was an educator whose practice financially supported his teaching. “It was rewarding in ways that making money was not,” he said.

“I found all these things satisfying, but you need to make a living, and fortunately, my practice generated enough revenue to permit me to do that,” he added.

Angel has spent the past nearly 40 years at Adelphi, teaching accounting to students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, all while still maintaining his own practice. Rather than view his practice and his teaching as in competition with each other, Angel, instead, sees them as complementary, saying that his practice helps him to maintain a certain practical mindset when presenting his lessons.

“Bringing in a teacher who is not experienced in the field is really doing a disservice to the students,” he said. “My daily presentations in my class were informed by what I did in my practice.”

This meant that while he taught all the tax concepts a student needs, he leaned heavily toward the ones that he knew that they, as practitioners, would be dealing with most often. As a result, he placed less emphasis on matters such as the Earned Income Tax Credit “because [recipients] are not the clientele CPAs work with,” and more on topics such as partnership and S corporation taxation. “When you step into a practice, those are the areas you will see.”

“Many academics have hypotheses they try to prove or disprove,” he said. “But this is really nuts and bolts. How do you deal with this type of dispute? Here’s the form, here’s the negotiation dos and don’ts. I always taught from a practitioner’s point of view.”

For instance, in his Tax Aspects of Financial Transactions class, which he taught to M.B.A. students, he wrote the curriculum so as not to focus on the nitty-gritty of specific code sections but, rather, to give a broad overview of the kinds of issues that managers should be aware of in the course of their business. This ties into his overall teaching style, which, he said, is to create a relaxed environment where people aren’t afraid to ask questions.

“Taxation is a complex topic to begin with, but because of my passion for the subject, I was able to relay that to the students,” he said. “I don’t want to say I have a good sense of humor, but they did tolerate my corny jokes and all that. ...  I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it certainly contributed to the atmosphere I wanted in my classroom.”

Understanding the struggles that some of his students had gone through already, many of whom had come from diverse backgrounds, Angel also made it a point to provide an empathetic ear on not just tax issues but also on whatever other challenges his students faced. This caring attitude is also what led him to launch a new site for the NYSSCPA’s Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program at Adelphi University almost 10 years ago, to sustain the program that had been situated at Hofstra University. He knew that it was important for the program to continue on somewhere else.

“I went to my university and negotiated for Adelphi to really run the COAP program at no cost at all. We were able to negotiate no charge for the dorms—though they charged us for the linens—no charge for use of classrooms, ... and I was able to engage Adelphi faculty to make presentations,” he said.

After a successful launch, Angel became instrumental in maintaining the program as an active member of the COAP Advisory Board for his university.

Angel is set to retire soon, after his nearly 40 years of teaching. He has also pulled back from his firm a little, with Lynne M. Fuentes taking care of most day-to-day operations, though he still meets with clients in order to maintain good relations.

During his years of teaching, he has made a major impression on many of his students. Donato Moneta, 22 years old, credits his interest in the tax system to Angel after having taken Federal Tax I and II with him in his junior and senior years.

“Although I knew nothing about tax going into his classes, I came out of it unbelievably intrigued about tax systems,” Moneta said. “I even wrote my senior thesis on the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the individual taxpayer and American economy, and Jack Angel’s classes were really the ultimate source of my knowledge.”

Rachel Foley, a 23-year-old M.B.A. student, got to know Angel over the course of his Federal Income Tax I, Federal Income Tax II and Advanced Federal Taxation classes, and found him to be not only an outstanding educator but a friend, mentor and comedian as well.

“His intelligence, passion and commitment to students is extremely motivating to college students like myself. I will always admire Professor Angel most for teaching students about the real world, and sharing his own personal insight, rather than lecturing on about a perfect world that is depicted by a textbook. It is easy to say that the impact Professor Angel has had on students is everlasting,” she said.

For his own part, Angel said he’s not normally one to pat himself on the back, but he did say that it was nice to have his contributions recognized after many years of working in the educational field. He said that he was very appreciative of the Society and also of his family, especially his wife, who has picked up a lot of the slack at home, and his daughter, who is a teacher herself. With all that in mind, however, he was still looking forward to retirement.

When asked what he planned to do, Angel said, “Right now, I’m enjoying my family, especially my three grandchildren, and looking forward to experiencing new joys.”

The Dr. Emanuel Saxe Outstanding CPA in Education Award, named for the late Dr. Emanuel Saxe, a former teacher at Baruch College, pays tribute to the outstanding contribution by CPAs who have dedicated their life’s work to accounting education. These individuals have demonstrated a passion for and commitment  to  the  profession by  providing an educational foundation for future generations  of  CPAs. This award acknowledges excellence in teaching and a contribution to and promotion of the accounting profession.

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