Bronco Send Off for Neal Ushman
Prof Neal Ushman taught his final Actg 131 classes in Winter 2021. When I first came to SCU, Neal Ushman was the outgoing department chair. Neal was welcoming, collegial, so helpful in getting to know how to navigate the faculty position I had just taken. He was a single dad and a tenured professor-wow! Having two of my own children and not being single was challenging enough. And so, lots of conversations centered around our same aged “kids”. I got to know Neal as a thoughtful person and a sage colleague. I could not have imagined that others in the department at that time were REALLY wondering what in the world he was doing by giving students exams that they barely even score on. “What is his point?” someone asked at a department meeting.
As my role grew to embrace being a University Advisor, Accounting majors would make an appointment with me to discuss how to arrange a minimalist course load the quarter they were taking Actg 131. It was the “feared” course of the program. It was the class that could make or break your aspirations in accounting.
The mystery for me was that his student evaluations were quite good. So what happened for students in that “gate keeper class”- as I called it? One alum recounted the “posting of the grades” individually- with a high of 64 and a low of 0- to which Prof Ushman announced that the 0 score student did really try. Humor- dry as it may have been-was noted for sure. Other alumnae commentary: “tough grader” [do ya think?]: “skip class, no pass.”
Neal shared one student’s note to him with me. The student wrote[and I’m paraphrasing here] “ Prof Ushman- what you’ve done for me is expose me to what I’ll be facing in my professional career- and how to approach really tough, unfamiliar & challenging issues. It didn’t seem like fun while in its midst- but the challenge is what I think I now understand will be the ‘fun’ of the profession. Thank you.” Wow- it doesn’t get much more heartwarming and humbling than that when you teach.
In the movie “A League of Their Own” about how women formed softball teams during WWII to lift American spirits during war- Tom Hanks is talking to his star player- who is ready to quit the team and leave the League. She tells him “It’s just too hard!” to which Tom Hanks replies “The ‘hard’ is what makes it GREAT.” I think that’s the legend and legacy of Neal Ushman. The stories amongst his very many students continues to this day. Their need to band together, study together, and tame the next exam is a big part of what has built our SCU Accounting community over the years.
So Neal, whether in your boat, or your RV, or your new Oregonian home- we say well done- thank you for 40 years of helping build the legendary SCU Accounting Community!
(Written by Wendy Donohoe, Professor of Practice, Accounting)