When Parveen P. Gupta orders a coffee, he is always working his brain around what is happening behind the scenes.
What are the numbers adding up to? What is the company’s revenue when they offer drink specials? What is its per unit quantity of specials sold on a given day?
The Lehigh accounting professor uses his profession in everything he does, and his passion of the subject shows through to his peers and students. The community’s appreciation is evident, as this year he was nominated and awarded the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Outstanding Educator Award. The award is given to educators for their high performances in the classroom, teaching efforts and progress advancing their research, all things Gupta values.
On sabbatical this fall semester, Gupta is practicing accounting at KPMG in New York, learning a new standard called “revenue recognition.” With this experience, he is looking forward to bringing his knowledge back to his students.
“I want to enrich my teaching, and the timing was just right,” Gupta said. “I think that I was lucky that the new standard is being implemented, effective in 2017. I happened to have time and someone was willing to give me an opportunity to contribute.”
In fact, one of his former students offered him the opportunity at the firm. Deeply involved with his students both past and present, Gupta said “once you see your children in your students, it’s a never-ending journey.”
Justin Tayabji, ’17, an accounting and finance major, had Gupta for his first 300-level course, Intermediate Accounting, and described his classroom experience positively.
“He not only broke down what we were doing, but he expanded the discussions as to why we were doing it, which was a sense of the bigger picture of accounting, making it interesting,” Tayabji said.
Gupta said the students are what “fuels his fire.”
“You could feel professor Gupta’s joy towards accounting when he taught, when most of the time accounting is thought of as very tedious work,” Tayabji said.
Teaching was not always a career goal, though. Growing up in Delhi, India, and coming to America to pursue higher education was never in his wildest dreams. That is, until a man named Kalipada Palit came to visit.
Palit, a family friend of the Guptas, was visiting India from America. At dinner, Palit suggested to Gupta that he should think about pursuing higher education, specifically a master’s degree, in America.
Gupta took the distant thought seriously. He finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Delhi with a dual degree in accounting and law and worked for four years in Delhi saving enough money to finally make his move.
His first stop was at University of Connecticut, working on a master’s degree in accounting and finance. Gupta said once he finished that degree, his goal was to go into the corporate world and work. But when a professor of his, Edward Ketz, suggested he continue his studies, Gupta took the advice without a second thought. His next goal became completing a doctorate in accounting, learning to conduct research and teach.
Again, trusting a colleague, Gupta took a leap of faith and went to Penn State University to receive his doctorate. Once he completed his degree, he toured different schools to start a profession in teaching. His heart stuck with Lehigh because of the campus atmosphere. He loved the picturesque campus and the school’s values.
The same today as it was 30 years ago, Lehigh’s accounting department values research, teaching and student engagement, accounting professor Kenneth Sinclair said. These three objectives continue to resonate with who Gupta is, and what he wants to represent.
Sinclair, Gupta’s close friend and colleague, is the man who hired Gupta 31 years ago. What attracted Sinclair to hire Gupta were three characteristics that he claimed to embody: productivity, hard work and fine character.
“The phrase I always use is, ‘The end justifies the means,’ so when you want something, there are different ways to get it, and sometimes people don’t care how they get to the end as long as they get there,” Sinclair said. “The means they use could not be so good. For (Gupta), he focuses on both. The process and the end.”
Gupta has helped Lehigh through many achievements, including helping create the curriculum for the master’s program in accounting in 2002. He also developed an entire graduate course based on a previous sabbatical experience, again with KPMG, in 1996. The self-created course ended up winning an award in 2005.
Gupta became chair of accounting in 2007 but has recently stepped down from that position. During his time in charge, Gupta was always in contact with the Accounting Advisory Board. This is where he first met alumnus and now partner, Bob Watters, ’85, at Ernst & Young.
The advisory board provides input in a strategic plan for the department to make sure they are continually being innovative and trying new programs that will continue to distinguish the Lehigh accounting program.
As Watters built his professional career, he began recruiting from Lehigh and wanted to find a way to give back to the university and more explicitly, the accounting program. Gupta recognized Watters’ efforts and asked him to join the board.
“For all the years I’ve dealt with professor Gupta, he’s someone I have great respect for,” Watters said. “His technical acumen is just superb. I have come across very few people in my lifetime who work as hard as professor Gupta does and who is as dedicated to the program and its students as he is.”
Gupta’s passion for accounting, commitment to his students and dedication to his research are a few ways that demonstrate what kind of an educator and person he is.
“I remind everyone I can, many of my fellow alums, what a special, special man this is and what a remarkable leader he is,” Watters said.