Haas Helps Prof. Alan Cerf Celebrate 90th Birthday

Haas Professor and alumnus Alan Cerf

Even today living to be 90 years old is still a major milestone. Add teaching a Taxation class to 60 undergraduates each semester to that milestone and you have a rare and impressive accomplishment recently achieved by Haas Professor and alumnus Alan Cerf, who was celebrated at a surprise birthday party earlier this month in the Wells Fargo Room.

Students, alumni, faculty, staff, and family members came out for the festivities, sharing heartfelt words about Cerf, BS 44, who earned his degree when the business school was called the College of Commerce and the dean was E.T. Grether.

“This is an extraordinary lifetime of contribution not just to this institution but to so many people’s lives,” Dean Rich Lyons said at the party. “He’s advanced the careers and made better lives for an awful lot of our students.”

Cerf has taught an estimated 14,000 students since joining the Berkeley faculty in 1955. He currently teaches the Federal Income Taxation in the undergraduate program.

“I’ve seen the school grow, and now Rich is leading us in great new directions,” Cerf told the well-wishers.

Alumnus Brian Rowbotham, BS 72, MBA 73, is among those 14,000 students whom Cerf has taught. He marked the occasion by presenting a $3,000 check to the Center for Financial Reporting and Management.

“When you look on Professor Cerf’s bio for the school, it says, ‘On Duty,’ which really says it all,” Rowbotham added. “You’ve got a lot of miles, but you are still young at heart.”

Rowbotham noted that a big jump in women in business school is among the many changes Cerf has seen over the years. Indeed, the school’s Center for Financial Reporting and Management has is now led by Maria Nondorf.

“I’ve been here for 11 years, which is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to Alan’s experience,” Nondorf said. “My first day, Alan stopped by my office. He made me feel so welcome and has been a great colleague and a great mentor for me throughout my time here.”

Another alumnus, Paul Reshke, BS 82, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, credited Cerf with shifting the direction of his career 32 years ago. He already had landed a job at a Big 8 accounting firm when he decided to take Cerf’s tax class his senior year. “Little did I know that (would) put a seed in my head and within five months of starting … I moved out of auditing and transferred to tax and ended up making it my career,” Reshke said.

For the last several years, Reshke has returned to Cerf’s class to sit on a tax panel and guest lecture on estate and gift taxes. While describing that experience, Reshke alluded to one possible secret to Cerf’s longevity, recalling how during one visit, Cerf asked if he could interrupt the talk for a short exercise break.

“Sure enough one of his students comes down halfway through the lecture, and she leads the class through some exercises,” Reshke recalled lightheartedly.

“When I sit in the classroom,” Reshke added, “it’s clear that the students really enjoy your never-ending enthusiasm and that you still enjoy teaching young people. It’s neat to see.”