This column, as well as the one appearing in the next issue of The Tax Executive, is an expansion and adaptation of remarks prepared for delivery at TEI's 67th Annual Conference. At the conference, Timothy McCormally, who will retire from the Institute at the end of the year, received the Institute's Honorary Membership Award.
Thank you, Carita Twinem, for your kind and generous words. Thanks to all of you, too, for your recognition this evening and to the Institute for generously endowing a scholarship in my name at the University of Iowa.
I will never forget what TEI has done for me (throughout my tenure and tonight), what it has allowed me to do, and what it has been for me — my work home and so much more — for three decades. Before offering personal reflections on my 30 years at TEI and how the Institute has chosen to honor me, let me offer brief comments about tonight's other honorees.
I am sorry that Bob Ashby and Neil Traubenberg cannot be with us tonight, because both made substantial contributions to TEI. Bob Ashby was the Institute's president when I became Executive Director, and his mentoring of me that year — and all the years before and after — made me a better tax professional, a better manager, and a better person. His steadiness and his respect for people — his support of and public appreciation for the contributions of TEI's staff — remains with me.
And Neil Traubenberg, whose wit and sense of humor are known to most, is a tax executive whose professionalism — whose tax smarts, people smarts, and just plain smart smarts — should never be doubted. Neil had the bad-timing of becoming Institute president as the economic meltdown worked its will on TEI and its operations. But he never wavered, he never flinched, and he never hesitated to act when action was required. Neil's positive, "Yes, we can" approach and core decency — his vision — came through in his dealings with TEI's staff and in everything TEI accomplished during his presidency.
And finally, to the honoree who is with us tonight, Vince Alicandri. As Carita intimated, you would have to search far and wide to find someone as passionate about or more dedicated to Tax Executives Institute than Vincent Alicandri. Ask him to help, and Vince will invariably say yes, as he did last year in respect of the Global Tax Advocacy Task Force. Cut him, and Vince will bleed TEI blue. Vince's humility requires him to give the credit to others, but TEI is in his debt. I am honored to share the lectern with him tonight.
Vince Alicandri was my twenty-eighth president, Carita Twinem is number 32, and all 32 brought unique talents but a common dedication to the job. Each took to heart the epigram from Teddy Roosevelt that graces each issue of our magazine, "Every man owes some of his time to the upbuilding of his profession." Each taught me how to lead, how to follow, how to build a team, and how to be a member of one. And each — and Carita, your theme this year confirms this view — each insisted that TEI put its Members First.
I am delighted that so many past Institute presidents — so many of my former bosses — are here this evening. At the risk of shortchanging the rest of them, I want to mention only one more — Sol Coffino, who assumed office just a few weeks after I joined the staff and who has provided me with invaluable coaching and support for three decades. Sol, as many of you know, was on the search committee that brought me to TEI in 1982, and he has had my back for 30 years. My understanding is that another member of the search team had commented — not positively — about my having a beard. Sol reportedly said, "Excuse me here; I have a beard, too." (The other member responded, "Yeah, I know.") Of course, Sol's beard and mine had nary a fleck of gray in them then.
People who know me know I cannot talk very long without mentioning my family — my parents, brothers and sisters, wife, children, scads and scads of nephews and nieces, and now grandchildren and grandnephews and grandnieces. Often on occasions like this, the honoree waits until the end to thank her or his spouse and family. I won't, as is said in journalistic circles, "bury the lede." Judy, I owe all I've accomplished to you and I am more grateful to and proud of you than you will ever know. Thank you. And, in abstenia, thank you to Kathleen, Erin, their wonderful husbands, Ari and Owen, and of course, Judy's and my grandchildren, Tessa and Calder.
My father, John McCormally, was a journalist — a larger-thanlife figure, a hell-raising editor who read voraciously, wrote fluidly and eloquently, and sought always to deploy his talents for a higher cause —the pursuit of liberty, justice, and peace. My mother, Peggy, who earned a Master's degree herself, was a teacher — first in high school and, after raising her seven children, in Head Start — for more than 30 years.
It was my mom and dad together who instilled in us the value of reading and writing, the imperative of hard work, and the necessity — the absolute necessity — of editing. They quoted Mark Twain, even before my family moved to the banks of the Mississippi River, on the difference between the right word and the wrong word being akin to the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. In point of fact, my mother was my dad's first editor — she was the editor of the college newspaper and he a reporter — and she was mine, too. When I asked Deborah Gaffney how long I should talk tonight, she said, "As long as you like, but just keep in mind that Peggy will be here in spirit." You see, when I had the occasion 10 years ago to speak at Kathleen and Ari's wedding, my mother allowed me to speak for 5 or 6 minutes and then, her arms slicing through the air, dramatically intoned, "Cut, cut, cut!" And she was right; I was going on too long.
My paternal grandfather, Patrick Henry McCormally, was who born in Chapman, Kansas, in 1874, was illiterate. He died before my mother and father were married, and the family surmises that he couldn't read or write because there is no evidence of his having ever written anything, and because — when my father was serving with the Marines in the Pacific during World War II — he wrote only to my grandmother, asking her to relay particular comments to his father.
After the war, my father returned to Kansas State Teachers College, read everything he could get his hands on, and went to work for the Emporia Gazette, whose legendary editor William Allen White made it famous nationwide. Dad's work there earned him a year-long journalism fellowship at Harvard University. Decades later, he described his time at Harvard as one of the most enriching experiences in his life, because it allowed him to learn from top-notch faculty members and to build a network of friends and colleagues who helped him throughout his career. Back in Kansas, he switched papers, worked hard, garnered numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, and instilled in his children a love of learning and of writing, a commitment to education, and a dedication to using whatever talents we had in the service of others.
It is because of this background — and the example of my parents — that I have been honored to spend 30 years at Tax Executives Institute, an organization devoted to life-long learning and whose advocacy mission can itself be seen as education: We educate one another and our colleagues. We educate officials at the IRS, the Treasury Department, and their counterparts in Canada, Europe, and Asia. We educate the Supreme Court and lower courts. And we educate Congress and other legislators.
And it is because of TEI's commitment to education that I could not be happier about the Institute's decision to endow a scholarship in my name at the Henry B. Tippie School of Business at the University of Iowa. My family's connection with Iowa is deep. Not only did I receive my undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, but my six brothers and sisters all attended as well. So did Judy, seven of my sisters-in-law, and several nephews and nieces. There are many Iowa B.A.s, M.A.s, M.D.s, and J.D.s hanging proudly in the homes of McCormally family members. My father himself was a visiting lecturer in the School of Journalism.
So education and the University of Iowa are extremely important to the McCormally family. We McCormallys know from experience what a good education can mean to people's ability to pursue their dreams. We also know what financial aid can mean. Judy and I both received scholarships to go to Iowa, and while I would have been able to attend even without it, Judy would not. Many other family members also benefitted from scholarships.
Given my family's experience, TEI's preeminence in life-long learning, and my participation in the development and delivery of TEI's educational programs, I cannot think of anything you could have done to make me prouder than to endow a scholarship in my name. One of the joys of my job is reading letters from students who have received scholarships from TEI's chapters and regions. It brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat when I see what a big difference even a small scholarship — less than a cup of Starbucks coffee a day — can mean to students.
One last thing: Iowans can be sneaky. (As an Iowan, I think I have the right to say that, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing.) I say it now, in connection with the endowed scholarship, because I was totally gobsmacked when the Iowa Chapter announced the scholarship at a meeting in West Des Moines on October 16. People may think of many things when they think of me, but two of the ones I'm proudest of are "Iowan" and "education." That the Iowa Chapter — led by Rich Wireman, Bob Birch, and Rob Scallon — combined them means a lot to me, and that the Institute decided to build upon the idea while keeping the Iowa connection leaves me nonplussed. I tend not to like surprises, but this was different. It wasn't just a surprise; it was Christmas morning. Thank you.