Jim (’73 Busi. Admin.) and Molly Malone (’76 Accounting) Philopant met at WSU. Molly says WSU was the common thread between finding her life partner, experiencing a fulfilling career, and some of the most memorable years of her life. They began supporting WSU with small donations to the Alumni Association in the late ’70s/early ’80s and expanded over time to support a number of WSU priorities. Though Jim lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 55, Molly continues their legacy of supporting WSU, including The Next Carson Coug (TNCC).
You’ve been a loyal supporter of WSU and the Carson College for several years. What motivates you to support University and Carson College programs?
I grew up learning it was important to share your time, talents, and treasure with others. Motivation changes over time from an expectation to a conscious decision to help those less fortunate in hopes of improving their lives and the ensuing joy it brings the donor. Jim was, and I continue to be, proud WSU graduates. Although he was a quiet person, Jim earned the respect of many in the accounting profession and Spokane business and civic communities; I knew they would want to remember him after his death in 2005. One of the ways my daughter and I chose to honor him was establishing the James W. Philopant CPA Memorial Endowed Scholarship for accounting students. The recipient must demonstrate a passion for the accounting profession, high moral and professional standards, and a commitment to community through volunteer service. The recipient is also urged to give back to WSU after graduating. TNCC assists students in developing these attributes. After listening to a presentation about TNCC in 2018, I was asked to consider an investment in this innovative change for the Carson College of Business. I did not hesitate to say yes to this opportunity and made a five-year commitment.
What aspects about TNCC appeal to you the most?
I was excited to learn TNCC students declare their major at the end of the freshman year after completing a required class. I think this earlier exposure to the business program will help students assess whether a business degree is right for them. Also, emphasis on soft skills development caught my attention. The modules for sophomores covering collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, spreadsheets, data visualization, etc. should serve TNCC’s purpose to have job-ready graduates. What a wonderful opportunity to learn these soft skills as a sophomore and then have two years to perfect them. Personally, while I had a very fulfilling career, I did not attain the ultimate goal I set for myself my freshman year—becoming a partner in a CPA firm. Looking back, I know I lacked some of the soft skills TNCC students will develop.
One of the TNCC reforms is to reduce class sizes. Why do you think faculty-to-student ratios are important?
I think reduced class sizes and faculty-to-student ratios are one of the most significant changes of TNCC. This change reduces lecturing and increases the opportunity for learning through activities and hands-on experiences, and hopefully results in higher knowledge retention. The improved learning environment provides students with a better opportunity to interact with their instructors as well as with each other.
In what ways do you think TNCC does a great job of preparing students for the future?
As a result of working in a small CPA firm over the summers during my college years, I know firsthand the benefit of applying the technical skills in a real-life setting. The Carson College goes above and beyond providing students with the technical skills needed for their specific business areas. TNCC fills the gap between mastering technical skills and producing career-ready graduates by also requiring soft skills such as teamwork, communication, work ethic, and professionalism. Graduates will be able to adapt with the needs of their future employers and thereby succeed in their chosen careers.
How do you think TNCC will grow the Carson College’s reputation and attract students?
Hiring a new employee represents an investment by the employer and the expectation of a return for the shareholders or owners. I think TNCC will result in well-prepared graduates who will have a higher probability for success with their employer. The employer will remember this success and look to the college for future hires. The college’s consistent placement of graduates with high-caliber employers is a key factor for successful student recruitment.
How has your business degree added value to your career and life?
I entered WSU in the fall of 1972 knowing I wanted to become a CPA. The required classes prepared me to successfully pass the national CPA exam. My degree helped me land my first job and begin a career in Spokane, which included 10 years in public accounting and 25 years in accounting and financial management positions with nonprofit organizations. I feel very fortunate to have had an enjoyable career that also challenged me and provided opportunities for continued growth. During my career, I met a number people who are now long-time friends.