When Seamus Appel ‘16 graduated from Denison, he received an unexpected email from accounting professor Pat McGonagle.
“He sent me an email after I graduated with his cell phone number and email telling me to stay in touch and let him know whenever I was in town again,” said Appel, who never took a class with McGonagle, but met him through friends who did. “He goes out of his way to help his students and he genuinely enjoys getting to know students.”
Although McGonagle, 48, has four kids and a day job, he ventures up the hill each Monday and Wednesday to teach two sections of Accounting Survey, a one-hundred level economics class that has been taught by his family for two generations.
McGonagle began teaching in 2004, after, Mary Van Meter, his mother-in-law, retired after 10 years on the job.
“In some ways pressure wasn’t there because she kind of gave me free rein, and when she retired, she retired, she never came back around. She did help proctor a couple quizzes, probably the first year or two, she might have done a quiz a semester or something, and then she told me she was done,” he said. “She was a good mentor.”
The accounting class is not typical class you might expect to find at a liberal arts school. He covers the language of accounting, financial statements, and offers students basic information about the financial world.
“I’ve always said that accounting is the language of business and many students go on and, whether they’re directly in accounting or they take a finance position or a management position, they need to understand the basics of accounting, and that’s what taught in the course,” McGonagle said.
“When you see the light go off, and you see some of the students, because not all students like accounting, but you see students that get it or understand the purpose in a business setting and that they’ll be able to utilize this skill for the rest of their life, I think that’s exciting for me.”
When not teaching, McGonagle is the chief financial officer of The Energy Cooperative, a local utility company where he’s been working for 24 years.
“He knows the real world and he can tell students about that, I mean, we’re not a business school and we don’t have an accounting major, so we’d have to have a practitioner teach it, rather than an academic. I think that gives our students a window into the outside world,” said Andrea Ziegert, the chair of the economics department.
“Based on how many people were in my class it’s clear that there is an interest in learning these practical business skills,” said Kelsey McCormick ‘17, an economics major from Pasadena, California, who took his class last year.
Ted Burczak, former chair of the economics department, summed it up: “Pat enjoys talking with students about life’s journey. He’s also really engaged, attending their extracurriculars. That’s a significant commitment for someone who is part-time on the faculty.”
Photo Courtesy of mydenison.com