A second act for Tom Hazelbaker, CPA: teaching

Written on Jan 19, 2017

By Jennifer Rieman, CAE, manager, public relations

Tom Hazelbaker, CPA, didn’t plan on teaching accounting.

ProfileHazelbaker“I retired from Clark Schaefer Hackett & Co. and intended to be a grandpa,” he said.

But when Maggie Houston, CPA, MBA, CMA, CFM, senior lecturer of accountancy at Wright State University, suggested he consider it, he was receptive to the idea. Hazelbaker and Houston served together as trustees of The Ohio CPA Foundation. Four years later, he’s teaching full time at Wright State and enjoying every minute of it.

“I’m prepared, I’m ready for class and I look forward to it,” he said. “I love it.”

Hazelbaker estimates that up to 80% of the students in his Principals of Financial Accounting course are majoring in something other than accounting. The course is required for every business major at Wright State, but not all of the students are excited about being there.

His first class exercise shows students why the subject matters, even if they’re not accounting majors.

“I ask everyone to stand up, and I say sit down if you never plan to retire, if you plan to work to the grave,” he said. “And then I say, when you retire, if you plan on living only on social security, sit down.”

Not surprisingly, almost all of the students are still standing.

“Then I tell the students that they need to have some money to live on besides a social security check. They need to know how to invest, what a company is doing and what a company’s financial statements look like, so they can make evaluations on where to invest their money. That’s why they need the course.”

This straightforward approach continues through the third week of class, when Hazelbaker brings in his grandchildren’s toys to illustrate a point. The students run a mock business using a toy lawnmower, four-wheeler, stock certificates and blank note payables.

We sell stock, we borrow from the credit union, we get money to start a business and then we buy lawnmowers and supplies,” he said. “We go through starting a business visually, and everyone is doing something – it engages a class of 50 people.”

Throughout the course, he’s not above subtly and not-so-subtly encouraging his students to consider accounting. He brings in starting salary data for accountants and talks about his own career as former chair and president at Clark Schaefer Hackett.

He said many of his student evaluations include a similar theme—students initially thought they were going to hate accounting, but discovered they really like it and as a result, are thinking about changing their major.

Hazelbaker is adamant that more accounting professionals should consider teaching, especially after retirement, when there’s more time to focus on it.

“Students can see how I enjoyed my career and that I think accounting is interesting, which helps break the stereotype of what it means to be a CPA,” he said. “It attracts students to the profession if they see someone who likes it.”

Hazelbaker is fully present in the classroom, and his relationships with his students extend outside of school as well. When three international students on the varsity soccer team needed a stand-in for parent’s night, he was there.

Beyond his ability to form personal relationships with his students, his secret weapon in the classroom will always be his experience in public accounting.

“When a student asks a question, I can give five real-world examples to explain it to them,” he said. “I don’t live in a text book, I live in real-world experiences.”

14 comments

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  1. Dan Loesch | Jan 31, 2017

    Tom

    Great to hear about your new career.  My first tax class was taught by a practicing CPA.  I still remember his response to a student's question about the fairness of an issue. "No one every said the tax code was fair"

    I volunteered  as an instructor for minority business accounting class, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Perhaps I should do it again, but at 80 I do not have the energy.

  2. Andrew Gray, CPA | Jan 23, 2017
    I worked with Tom in his last few years at CSH. I'm proud to call him a mentor and friend. Even more proud of him for taking on a teaching role! He was a great teacher of accounting AND life to me at CSH. 
  3. Candice DeClark Peace | Jan 21, 2017
    We at Clark Schaefer Hackett knew Tom would be a great instructor; caring and empathetic.  Tom was a great leader at the Firm.  Everyone who has worked with or for Tom respects and appreciates his candor and his genuine interest in the folks or task at hand.  I am thrilled to see Tom recognized for all that he does for so many.  Way to go Tom!
  4. Zia | Jan 20, 2017
    He is a great person with giant heart. I remember him getting emotional reading a quote in regards to mother. He is wonderful instructor and person. 
  5. Carolyn | Jan 20, 2017
    I loved Mr. Hazelbaker's class! He is a great teacher and a great man! He worked one-on-one with anyone who asked for help and he was enthusiastic about doing it. He showed genuine concern when I showed up late for class because I was in an accident on my way to school. I wish he taught the next two accounting classes because I would have taken all of his classes. 
  6. Sherri OBrien | Jan 20, 2017

    Great article, Tom. Proud to know you!

  7. Patti Gage | Jan 19, 2017

    What a great article about a very special man!

    Congratulations on a very accomplished task!

  8. Rhonda Posey | Jan 19, 2017
    Tom is just an all round wonderful and caring person!i have been blessed to know Tom and his family!
  9. Katie Huffman | Jan 19, 2017

    Pretty neat story - impacting so many

    Blessed to be called family - 

  10. Justin Holweger | Jan 19, 2017
    Making a difference. Happy for the students, and you. 
  11. Erik Smolewski | Jan 19, 2017
    My Uncle Tom has always been there for me through thick and thin, and always someone who I could count on and look up to. It is extremely amazing to see him touch so many lives. What an awesome article. 
  12. Dana Darbyshire | Jan 19, 2017
    He is a great teacher and shows such pride in his new profession. However, teaching hasn't kept him from also continuing to be a fabulous grandpa to seventeen grandchildren.
  13. Jennifer | Jan 19, 2017

    Hi Diane,

    Thanks for leaving feedback! Tom does not have a Master's degree. He'd be happy to talk about his experience with you, so email me (jrieman@ohiocpa.com) if you'd like his contact info. 

  14. Diane Eisel, CPA | Jan 19, 2017

    A great article. I believe that CPA's can offer to students many real world examples, than someone who has never practiced accounting.

    I would be interested to know if Mr. Hazelbaker needed a Master's degree to teach?  This may be something I want to consider.

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