How one professor inspired countless students

Written on Aug 10, 2017

McFallGroupBy Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

“Do you know we all call him coach?” asked Jen Loan.

The “him” she’s referring to is Don McFall Jr., CPA. He’s now a visiting assistant professor at Hiram College, but about 10 years ago he was teaching at Kent State University, where Loan was as an undergraduate student in McFall’s financial accounting course.

“He made it entertaining from day one,” she said. “Every single day he wore a coach’s whistle to class. He said ‘I’m not your teacher, instead think of me as your coach. I want to coach you through this and train you for this experience.’”

In addition to teaching, McFall was also Kent State’s academic advisor for The Ohio CPA Foundation’s Student Ambassador Program, a program in which Loan was an ambassador. He was responsible for overseeing the ambassadors in their outreach and promotion of the profession, and continued to be part of the program for the next 10 years.

“People tell me kids are different today than they were a few years ago,” McFall said. “Maybe the environment’s changed, but good people are pretty consistent. My first students were as good as the last ones I had.”

McFall said he was always impressed with what the students could accomplish and how they reached their peers and the younger generation in ways that often-older faculty members cannot.

“For an instructor to see the success of those best students is just rewarding,” he said. “It still is rewarding every time I hear from one of my former students. It makes my day and I don’t even have to hear from them personally. If I just get to read something they did or accomplishment they had it’s a really good feeling.”

“He was always looking out for what was best for us,” said Melissa Carlisle, CPA. “He very much embodied the title of coach.”

Carlisle is another former student ambassador of McFall’s from Kent and is now an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. After spending, a few years in public accounting, she decided to get her Ph.D. in accounting and said McFall was a supportive presence during that time.

Without him as an accounting professor, Carlisle said she wasn’t sure if she would have chosen the accounting path. She said McFall played an integral part in her interest and showed her there’s more to being a faculty member than numbers and calculations.

“He was always the kind of professor I wanted to be,” Carlisle said.

Carlisle wasn’t the only student McFall passed the teaching bug on to. Along with her position as an attorney and a CPA at Cavitch, Familo & Durkin, LPA, Loan is also an adjunct professor at Hiram, a position she said McFall helped her acquire.

Both Carlisle and Loan mentioned how “Coach” opened the profession of accounting to the students and showcased the ways it could lead to a fulfilling career and life. And they aren’t the only ones McFall made an impression on, as he said he still hears from students he taught on a weekly basis.

“He was such a big influence on all of his students. One of the great things about him was he treated us as equals,” Loan said. “He was not only a professor but our mentor and friend.”

2 comments

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  1. Brian Lens | Aug 19, 2017
    Don "muggsy" and I were roomates in the Air Force in March 1972 in Omaha.  I knew starting then of his good character. 
  2. Greg LaFlame | Aug 15, 2017
    Great article and congrats to Mr. McFall.  He has it exactly right. Instructors should think of themselves  as coaches or guides: learning is the responsibly of the student! 

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