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Can you tell us about your career?
At Dickinson, I became quite interested in accounting as a discipline. Introductory and intermediate accounting were part of my economics major. Following graduation, I completed the MBA program at the University of Pittsburgh, with a concentration in accounting. I entered public accounting and set my sights on becoming a certified public accountant (CPA). My goal was to get my certificate after the required period of experience in public accounting, then enter academia and ultimately become an accounting professor. What actually happened was that I became hooked on public accounting and spent my entire 40-plus year career in that profession. I became active with the Pennsylvania and American Institutes of CPAs, serving in a number of volunteer positions, including on the AICPA’s Auditing Standards Board. I also taught with the PICPA and other state CPA societies and with public accounting firms around the country as part of the profession’s continuing professional education programs, thus fulfilling my dream of being a teacher.
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you in your life?
I was different from most of the people I worked with in public accounting. While I had a liberal-arts education, most of my colleagues had undergraduate business degrees, with little exposure to language arts, political science, literature, history or the fine arts. My education broadened my ability to work with clients and other business associates from all backgrounds and all walks of life. I think I was extremely well prepared by Dickinson both to be a good professional and a constructive citizen.
What inspired your gifts to Dickinson?
My Dickinson education has been invaluable to me. I was quite fortunate to have had parents who had both the ability and the inclination to fully fund my education. This was a privilege that I would like to help others have as well. That is why I have set up a scholarship in memory of my parents, Manley Rockman, M.D., and Helen Rockman. I have included Dickinson in my estate plans for the same reasons.
Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?
I believe in that old expression “paying it forward.” My parents supported me. I want to support other students coming behind. That is why I have tried to provide for those people, so that they can benefit from a Dickinson education the way I did. It’s part of what I call “an attitude of gratitude.”
What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?
My favorite memories of Dickinson involve the fine educators I encountered, of whom I would especially like to mention three. John Lloyd King, who was my accounting professor, helped me set my career path. I will always be grateful to him for introducing me to my chosen profession. Several professors in the English department had profound effects on my life. Joseph Shiffman helped instill in me a love of language and literature. Amos Ben Horlacher was another great teacher. In addition, he was a Unitarian minister and introduced me to the Unitarian-Universalist (UU) tradition. I have had a long and rewarding association with my local UU church and continue to be actively involved, as is my wife. In fact, she currently serves on our church board and as president of the congregation, roles I too have held over the years. I owe this to Dr. Horlacher. These three people helped set the course of my life, and I will be forever grateful to Dickinson and to them.
Can you tell us about what you do in terms of other hobbies, interests, etc.?
Over the years, I have been an active volunteer with a number of not-for-profit organizations, beyond my work with the church. When the Arthritis Foundation had local chapters, I was on the board of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter. I currently serve the National Arthritis Foundation (AF) as a member of its audit committee, helping to ensure the highest level of professionalism to our external, independent audit firm. I serve on the board of Contemporary Craft (CC), a Pittsburgh organization whose mission is “engaging the public in creative experiences through contemporary craft.” I have served CC over the years as finance chair and board chair, and I am currently the chair of its audit committee. Volunteering with organizations like the AF, CC and others is another way of “paying it forward.” I doubt I would be so committed to this work, particularly with an arts organization like CC, without my liberal-arts education from Dickinson.
What advice would give to today’s students?
Some believe that students should have their futures fully planned out far in advance. For example, while a high school student is still several years from graduation, they should have planned what college they wish to attend, the subject(s) in which they wish to major and even their chosen career.
I, on the other hand, made such decisions only when I was fully prepared and the decision needed to be made. Two examples. First, when I entered Dickinson, I did not have a chosen major. Instead, I took introductory courses in as many different disciplines as I could, including psychology, political science, economics, history and others. I delayed picking my major (economics) until near the end of my sophomore year. As to my career, I have related the multiple steps to my ultimate career in public accounting.
The advice I give young people is to not let yourself be forced into making choices before you are fully informed and prepared to do so. The best decision is an informed decision.
Published January 9, 2020