After 47 years of teaching accounting and tax law and impacting thousands of lives at UNC Charlotte, Professor of Accounting Howard Godfrey says it’s time to move on.
“It’s time to relax a bit,” says Godfrey, who joined the Belk College of Business in 1975 soon after earning his Ph.D. in accounting.
Godfrey – the winner of several awards, including UNC Charlotte’s top faculty award in 2011 – will retire on July 1. He estimates that more than 10,000 Belk College students have passed through one or more of his classes.
“Howard lives by the motto ‘teaching is a privilege not to be taken lightly,’ ” says Jennifer Troyer, Belk College dean. “He has tirelessly dedicated himself to teaching and to helping our accounting students succeed. For him, this dedication extends long after our students leave the classroom. We often hear from former students who share how they received a congratulatory note from him when they passed the CPA exam or how he continued to celebrate with them as their careers progressed.”
A Legacy of Service
Pioneering faculty member Thomas Turner, founder of the accounting department, hired Godfrey in the department of accounting in 1975.
“When I interviewed at UNC Charlotte, I saw that the faculty members were really nice people and that this would be a great place to start a career again, to start over with a Ph.D.,” Godfrey recalls. “I had no idea that the small school would have over 30,000 students today.”
In those early days, it was also about accepting challenges and not allowing limited resources to become a roadblock, he says.
Godfrey recalls teaching accounting classes in a chemistry lab and how there were no office phones, just one phone in the entire accounting department.
As enrollment grew, faculty positions were added fairly quickly.
“We had a great faculty team. We had a very stable department, a stable faculty, and our students knew what to expect from year to year.” he says.
Godfrey says from the beginning there was a push to create opportunities for students and to build a nationally-recognized program.
“In the early days, the Charlotte area was hungry for a great accounting program,” he explains.
Connecting Students to Jobs
As he has packed up his office, he says he has been reminded through photos and documents of how faculty connected to students.
“We needed them to know that we cared,” Godfrey says. “They trusted us with their professional lives. Over and over I think about the fact that you need to help students understand the tremendous opportunities and discover the tremendous potential that they have. They surprise themselves. It’s fun to watch them scale the heights.”
It’s not uncommon for former students to speak to him as he has traveled outside of Charlotte, even as far away as Los Angeles International Airport.
“When you travel, you are likely to meet our alumni,” he adds
Godfrey celebrated over the years as graduates passed the CPA exam, sending them a note of congratulations. He also celebrated as many of his former students have gone on to promising careers at top accounting firms, or to become CEOs and business owners.
“Employers knew that our graduates would be prepared to walk in the door and immediately start working.”
His heroes, he says, are the alumni who use their talents to give back to the community.
Among those is Alfreda Barringer ‘88, who earned her accounting degree while working in UNC Charlotte’s chemistry department. Since graduating, Barringer has taken her message of empowerment around the globe as a Kellogg Fellow and non-profit leader.
She says she’s forever grateful to Godfrey.
“Because of Dr. Godfrey I persevered to complete a degree in a profession which I knew little about and to become a CPA,” she says. “Dr. Godfrey inspired and motivated me to think of possibilities. He was an engaging teacher, conversational, and made the lessons understandable. I benefited greatly from an independent study topic that I undertook under his guidance. He was interested in knowing which things worked for me and what didn't work. Dr. Godfrey taught me the values of persistence, successes and failures.”
Godfrey taught Shelia Dillon '75 during his first year at UNC Charlotte. She later rose through the ranks to become a senior vice president for First Union. After retiring, she began a second career for her alma mater as executive director of the Charlotte 49ers Athletic Foundation.
“Dr. Godfrey leaves a phenomenal legacy with the Belk College of Business,” says Dillon, a 2013 UNC Charlotte Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. “As a student in one of his first classes, it was so beneficial to hear his practical business experiences relevant to the topic. He is much beloved and will be impossible to replace.”
A Legacy of Service
Godfrey gave back to the college and students in many ways over the years.
He served as the first faculty advisor for the college’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter, an international honor society for accounting, finance and information systems students.
In 1994, he committed to prepare an undergraduate team for a national tax challenge competition. Competing against 64 teams, UNC Charlotte was recognized as the second best team in the nation. His teams continued to be successful, qualifying 12 times in the top 10 nationally.
He also served as chair of the Department of Accounting from 1996-2002.
His advice to colleagues: “Enjoy your career and watching students succeed.”
To his thousands of former students, he says: “I’m deeply grateful to you for choosing us and making a commitment to excellence; and giving us the opportunity to follow your career as you move up the ladder.”
Howard Godfrey receives the 2011 Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence.
- Ph.D. from the University of Alabama
- Joined the department of accounting in 1975
- Accounting department chair, 1996-2002
- Advisor for the college’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter
- Author of “The Handbook on Tax Exempt Organizations”
- Member of the Editorial Board for The Tax Adviser, a tax journal published by the AICPA.
- Coach for the college’s Tax Challenge Team for over 20 years. The teams consistently finished in the top 10, finishing second in the nation in 1994, 1998 and 2017. They finished third in 1995 and 1999.
- Served on the Continuing Professional Education Committee of the North Carolina Association of CPAs
- Past president of the Charlotte Chapter of Financial Executives International
- Volunteer staff member for the Tax Division of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
- North Carolina Association of CPAs Outstanding Accounting Educator Award, 1994
- Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence, 2011
- University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence, 2012
- Department of Accounting Thomas C. Turner Outstanding Teaching Award, 2012
- UNC Charlotte Distinguished Faculty Award, 2015
- First recipient of The Charlotte Business Journal's Academic Leadership Award, 2015
- Beta Alpha Psi Business Information Professional of the Year (Education), 2020
Green and Gold Drive Business
Established in 1970, the Belk College of Business offers business education programs at the undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and executive levels. The Belk College is one of the Carolinas’ largest business schools, with more than 4,600 students, nearly 100 full-time faculty, and more than 33,000 alumni. Accredited by AACSB International, the college is committed to building strong partnerships in the greater Charlotte region and beyond as North Carolina's urban research business school. Learn more about how the Belk College is driving business at belkcollege.charlotte.edu, and on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.