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Longtime accounting teacher Celina Jozsi retires

Jozsi teaching

Celina Jozsi's long career in accounting education started as an accident.

Originally a math and French major, an accounting major friend bet her $100 that she couldn't pass the initial accounting course. After passing that course, she kept taking more.

That same dauntless spirit was Jozsi's hallmark during her 35 years of service as part of the accounting faculty at the USF Muma College of Business. During that time, she served as past president of the Tampa Bay Chapter of National Association of Accountants (now Institute of Management Accountants), president of Beta Gamma Sigma at USF, and faculty advisor of Beta Alpha Psi at USF, including the first year the chapter achieved the superior ranking. She also was appointed as the first Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy teaching fellow and earned 20 teaching awards: 11 from the direct vote of the senior accounting students, four at the university level, three at the college level, and two state of Florida Teaching Incentive Program awards. Moreover, she was honored as the Tampa Bay Hispanic Woman of the Year in Education by Tampa Bay Hispanic Heritage.

Although many students remember her as the toughest professor they ever had, they also remember her as one of the best. And with Jozsi's retirement this summer, many of her students sent emails and posted on social media to congratulate her.

"One student wrote me and said that I cannot retire, that I will live on in his legacy and his memory," she said, noting that the tributes from her students have brought her to tears. "I was just doing my job."

The love Jozsi developed for accounting, and the knowledge she passes on to her students, is based on her deep belief that accounting as the language of business can add tremendous value to an organization – but only if it is understood and communicated properly. "If you can't explain it in really simple terms with visuals for how it all fits within an organization, accounting does not provide that much value," she said.

Murthy speaking about Jozsi with a group

"Her passion for students is unrivaled," said Uday Murthy, the chair of the USF Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy. Over her time at USF, Jozsi taught students who went on to become pillars of the USF and Tampa Bay community -- partners in accounting firms, entrepreneurs, attorneys. Jozsi said she is humbled to have been a part of the significant student success. "I think we have a responsibility in the classroom to make sure that students reach their potential, even if at items students are stretched," she said.

Jozsi's familiarity with the uncomfortable started in childhood. As one of the children on the "Peter Pan" flights in the early 1960s, her parents sent her and her sister to the U.S. from Cuba, alone, to escape communism. Before being reunited a year and a half later, she and her sister spent time in an orphanage. "It shapes you," she said.

Her resilience – and, as many said at her retirement party, stubbornness – played into her teaching style and presence on countless committees, community organizations, and professional groups.

"How do you say no to Celina?" said Liana O'Drobinak, a former student of Jozsi's who rose to partner at Arthur Andersen and now manages her own consulting business. "How do you say no to someone who's given so much of herself?"

In her retirement, Jozsi's former students and colleagues won't stop hearing from her. She plans to write an accounting textbook and remain active in the accounting community.

"Celina calls, and you take her calls," said Steve Oscher, a successful CPA who now runs a consulting firm. "There are thousands of students, literally, who owe their careers to Celina."

Bill Tapp, senior managing director for professional services company CBIZ MHM Tampa Bay, said he was happy to see Jozsi receiving from students a portion of the love and effort she put into their education.

"Thank you for all you have done for our students, our university and our profession," Tapp wrote to Joszi in an email. "Each of us has truly been blessed to have been able to get to work and know you over the years. I certainly hope you enter into this next phase of your professional life simply knowing that you have made a difference – a huge difference – in the lives and careers of so many of us."