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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

For 34 years, accounting professor hasn't done it by the numbers

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Narragansett resident Richard Vangermeersch to retire in spring


KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 9, 2004 -- True or false: Accounting is one of the most exciting fields.

Most people would probably answer false, that is unless theyíve learned from University of Rhode Island Accounting Professor Richard Vangermeersch.

During his 34-year career, the Narragansett resident has broken into song-and-dance routines to tap into dry but important accounting principles. Heís torn away a dress shirt to reveal his "Super CPA" T-shirt and he has coined 250 "Vangrams," humorous nuggets that drive home the importance of excellence in accounting and in life.

"For an accountant, I am into words. I am very verbal," said Vangermeersch, who will retire in May and be feted during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 11 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Crossings, Warwick. The event will benefit the Richard Vangermeersch Accounting Endowment to support faculty and students in the College of Business.

"Students like the laughter, they like the sayings," said the Providence native who was raised in Johnston and graduated from North Providence High School. "I like to say that Ernie "D." (DeGregorio, former Friar hoop great) and I are North Providenceís most famous graduates."

Edward M. Mazze, dean and the Alfred J. Verrecchia-Hasbro Inc. Leadership Chair in Business at the College of Business Administration, said every business school has a number of stars. "They are the faculty who in addition to teaching and preparing the future generation of leaders, continue to do outstanding research and bring visibility to their institutions both locally and nationally," Mazze said. "Richard Vangermeersch is one of those stars. His passion for accounting and the University is immediately obvious to all those students and others he meets. For us in the College, Richard represents the best of the best. "

Michaela Mooney, the senior development officer for the College of Business Administration, said she talked with Vangermeersch about an event to honor him for his years of service, and he accepted. "We in the College felt that this would be a great evening because he made such a difference in so many studentsí lives and in the life of the college. He made accounting -- and for that matter everything he was involved in -- fun and exciting," Mooney said.

Vangermeersch earned his bachelorís degree in accounting from Bryant college, a liberal arts certificate from the URI Extension, now known as the URI Feinstein Providence Campus, and his masterís degree in accounting from URI in 1964. He earned his doctorate in accounting from the University of Florida with concentrations in economic theory, economic history and management.

"I am a worker, and I am into sports, jazz and theater," Vangermeersch said. "I enjoy being at the University."

Students have enjoyed his presence at URI as well.

"When I took Accounting 101, he was a very animated, likable professor who just loved teaching students about accounting," said John Conforti, a 1977 URI graduate and now chief financial officer with Ocean State Job Lot. "Professor Vangermeersch was on the crazy side in a good way. He would tear his shirt off in strip tease fashion to expose his "Super CPA" T-shirt. His teaching absolutely solidified my decision to become an accountant."

In his junior year, Conforti encountered some academic trouble, and he began to doubt whether he was right for the profession. "Professor Vangermeersch told me I was going to be great at it," Conforti said.

"He is just someone who loves what he does, and it is just refreshing to deal with someone with such character," Conforti said.

A prolific writer and researcher, Vangermeersch penned a 400-page history of URIís Colllege of Business Administration and co-authored a pictorial history of the entire University in the Images of America Series that was published in 1999. He donated the proceeds of the sale to the Annual Fund of the Alumni Association.

Among his nearly 200 writings are: "Explaining Accounting to a Seven-Year-old," in The Journal of Accountancy, "Accounting: Socially Responsible and Socially Relevant," a book of readings published by Harper & Row in December 1972; "The Devilís Advocate" in the National Public Accountant and "There are Heroes to Look Up to and at: Our Students Need to Know This and Them," in Accountants for the Public Interest.

It's clear when speaking with Vangermeersch and reviewing his list of publications that he has always been passionate about ethics in the profession. "Accountants do good things for society, but we have to make that our mantra," he said.
Still one of the most visible and active professors on campus, he is always ready for a round of golf. He said about his two holes-in-one, "a lifetime of mediocrity wiped out by two swings."

About his vocal support of Rhody student-athletes, Vangermeersch said he canít understand why Rhode Island fans arenít supportive and why they donít get into the spirit of the games. "Some people regard cheering as a terrible thing," he joked.

After his retirement, he plans to stay connected to URI, teaching an occasional course and heíll stay active in the Narragansett Republican Town Committee.

Through it all, he'll carry his message, "There is nothing wrong with laughter."

To contribute to the endowment or to make arrangements to attend the tribute in June, please contact

Michaela Mooney at:
Ballentine Hall 341
URI
Kingston, RI 02882
401-874-4716
email: Michaela@uri.edu