Getting to Know Professor Leonard Fuld
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with popular Sy Syms Professor Leonard Fuld, who is known for his engaging personality and unique approach to hair styling. After a wide-ranging career in corporate America, Professor Fuld came to YU, where he currently teaches on the Wilf campus and at Cardozo during the summer. His course offerings include both of the Accounting Principles core classes and both Federal Income Taxation courses for accounting majors. We discussed a broad set of topics ranging from his extensive corporate and academic experiences to the one piece of advice he makes sure all of his students know.
Neiman: I’m just going to come right out and say it: what is the story behind your luscious locks and which barber can students go to if they’d like to get that cut?
Fuld: They would have no barber to go to. I don’t go to any barber, as you could probably tell. There is no story; there is no reason. I just stopped cutting my hair about three or four years ago. Previously, I had to live the corporate life and couldn’t completely do what I wanted. Now, I’m doing things the way I want to do them.
Neiman: Hopefully, YU students can have a similar haircutting policy one day soon. Right now, we have to apply for jobs, unfortunately. Speaking of employment, how long have you been at YU for and in what capacities?
Fuld: I’ve taught at YU in some capacity going back for probably 15 years. I started as an adjunct professor and then advanced to a full-time professor four years ago, primarily teaching tax and accounting. Another role that I enjoyed was helping institute controls that turned the Seforim Sale into a more profitable venture. Currently, I am part of a team effort trying to put together an M.S. in Taxation graduate program at Syms.
Neiman: How is that progressing?
Fuld: There is certainly a lot of demand for it amongst our current students. Everybody in the Syms administration is very excited about the potential of having the program. At this particular point in time, the application for approval to New York State is being reviewed by an independent third party. When that is concluded, we’ll submit the application to New York State and hopefully get approval to move forward. If all goes well, the M.S. in Taxation program would be looking at a launch for the 2017-2018 school year.
Neiman: What inspired you to join academia?
Fuld: My first teaching experience was at George Washington High School, which I did concurrently with graduate school (at NYU for an MBA specializing in Accounting). I fell in love with teaching then. When I started in the corporate world, the plan was always to teach full-time one day. In fact, throughout much of my corporate career, I taught in one capacity or another. Specifically, I taught as an adjunct at various NY based graduate schools and led training seminars for the companies I worked for. For example, at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC), I taught accounting and tax seminars across the country, and Schlumberger would periodically send me to Paris or London to teach a two-day mergers course.
Neiman: Was there a specific reason you chose to teach at YU?
Fuld: When the time came to pursue teaching on a full-time basis, I gave some serious thought as to where would I feel most comfortable and have the most fun. Throughout my corporate life, I had the pleasure of traveling and teaching all over the world and, and as an academic, I taught in several universities, including YU, Queens College, NYU and Baruch College, but I felt and continue to feel that the general spirit, midot (behavior) and overall respect of the students here at YU is unmatched. I look at all of my students as if they are part of my extended family.
Neiman: Can you detail some of the corporate jobs you previously alluded to which you had before you became a full-time professor?
Fuld: I started at PwC and left as a Tax Manager. From there, I went to Schlumberger (a large oil and gas exploration/technology firm) where I was the Deputy Director of Taxes. Next, I went to Citigroup and worked in Mergers & Acquisitions as a Senior Tax Counsel. After that, I moved on to my final corporate job as Vice President of Taxes at Griffon Corp, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.
Neiman: Were there any lessons which you learned in your time in the corporate world that may be of benefit to YU students?
Fuld: I always teach this to all of my classes: do the right thing. Don’t ever do anything that you would not want your mother to know about or the New York Times to publish.
Neiman: What about the accounting and tax subjects make them particularly important skills for a business student?
Fuld: I wouldn’t limit the importance of these subjects to just business students. I actually believe that basic accounting and individual taxes should be taught to every high school student in the country, along with basic finance. Whatever a person does in life, he or she is going to need to have some knowledge about finance, accounting and tax. There is just no way to avoid it.
Neiman: Well Ted Cruz may be taking care of the IRS for us, so maybe one day soon.
Fuld: (Laughs) That would be nice.
Neiman: What are some things about you which students might not know that would interest them?
Fuld: I am not your run-of-the-mill C.P.A., professor, as I’ve followed my own path and continue to do so. To illustrate, on the one hand, I ride a motorcycle, listen to The Grateful Dead (a popular rock band), do construction projects and regularly hit the gym. On the other hand, with much gratitude, I’ve completed Shas (all of the books of Talmud), became a schochet (certified to kill an animal as prescribed by Jewish law) and enjoy my children and grandchildren (who live in Efrat, New York, and New Jersey) to the fullest. Overriding everything, though, is that the Republican backroom kingmakers have asked me to become their candidate when the contested convention breaks down. I’ll give it some thought, but I cannot imagine giving up teaching at YU.