Trail-Blazing Accounting Professor Prepares Students to Forge New Paths
A trailblazer who has paved the way for other women in the accounting field, Irene McCarthy, Ph.D., Professor of Accounting and Taxation, has also helped make the discipline accessible to St. John’s business students for 38 years. At the same time, her research on social responsibility and the relationship between business and ethical behavior have helped make her a well-respected expert in this area.
The first woman to teach accounting at the University’s Staten Island campus, Dr. McCarthy earned her Ph.D. in accounting from New York University and her M.S.in accounting and education from the City University of New York.
“My interest in business and accounting started when I was very young,” she said. “My sister and I used to help my father run his newspaper stand in Brooklyn because he was blind. One of my main responsibilities was keeping his books. In the process, I discovered that I had a gift for numbers.”
Believing that education was the path out of poverty, McCarthy took a bookkeeping course in high school, doing so well that her advisor suggested she pursue accounting at St. John’s. She elected to stay closer to home and enrolled at Baruch College, where she was one of only three women majoring in accounting and the only one to graduate. Undaunted by the odds against women in her profession, McCarthy landed a position with a public accounting firm after a stint as assistant treasurer for a corporation. Then she started her own tax practice. “The world was very different in the 1950s,” said McCarthy. “Many traditionally male businesses were reluctant to hire women.”
McCarthy’s desire to teach also developed early. “My first role models were the women I was lucky enough to have as teachers in elementary and high school,” she said. Ultimately, she combined her accounting and teaching skills, first on the high school level and then at St. John’s, joining the faculty in 1975.
“St. John’s was the perfect fit for me,” she said. “I was moved by its commitment to providing educational opportunities to needy students. And I love being able to open new doors for my students, and helping them fulfill their potential.”
For Isabella Jendryka ’14TCB, ’15TCB, McCarthy’s success in the academic and business worlds have inspired her to do the same. “Thanks to Dr. McCarthy’s example, I am now considering becoming an accounting professor at some point in the future,” she said. “And, with the thorough foundation in accounting I received from Dr. McCarthy, I’m confident that I am more than ready to take on the CPA exam and any full-time position I get in the field.”
Recently, McCarthy also began teaching an online course—an experience she finds exciting. “I’m as enthusiastic about teaching today as I was when I first started,” she said. “Learning how to explain accounting principles using electronic tools is allowing me to enjoy a new adventure in teaching.”
Her effectiveness as a teacher and mentor is reflected in the numerous honors McCarthy has received, including The Peter J. Tobin College of Business’s Teaching Excellence Award and the University’s Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award. She also received the Dr. Emanuel Saxe Outstanding CPA in Education Award from the New York State Society of Public Accountants as well as the Paul S. Lomax Business Education Award.
In addition, McCarthy served as Associate Dean of the College of Business, later renamed The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. Her work has been published by leading journals in the field, and she has frequently presented at high-level conferences on accounting.
Danielle Airo ’12TCB,’13TCB, a student in the five-year MBA program, currently serves as McCarthy’s graduate assistant. In Fall 2013, Airo will begin her own career at one of the nation’s leading tax and assurance accounting firms. She attributes her drive, in part, to the example of passion and hard work set by her mentor. “Dr. McCarthy gave me the support and extra push I once needed to fulfill my potential,” said Airo. “She nurtured my drive to realize my academic, career and personal goals. I will always be grateful to her.”