NJCPA Ovation Awards honor superstars whose exemplary efforts and stellar achievements are advancing New Jersey’s accounting profession.
The annual Ovation Awards recognize the multitude of ways that individuals contribute significant time, energy and intellect to developing our profession and fostering its success. The awards celebrate the high achievers who are emerging leaders, innovators, champions of diversity, educators, volunteers, notable women and other individuals who have made a substantial impact in accounting.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION
Honoring the champions of diversity, equity and inclusion who work passionately to make the accounting and finance profession open, welcoming and fair to encourage and promote initiatives and change, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, disability status or other dimension of diversity.
Irina G. Balashova, CPA, CIA, CFE
Senior Associate at Forensic Resolutions, Inc.
As a wheelchair user, Irina works tirelessly to ensure the equal rights of handicapped individuals. She is a married mother of two elementary school children who has proven that disability is not an obstacle — both professionally and personally. In addition to being a member of the NJCPA, the Institute of Internal Auditors, the American Institute of CPAs and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, she is also the treasurer of the Lomonosov Russian School of Southern New Jersey.
Maria Mauricio, CPA
Senior Accountant at WilkinGuttenplan
Maria is one of four female co-founders of the Professional Filipino American Youth (PFAY), a nonprofit organization that mentors Filipino American college students. For the past three years, Maria has been involved in the NJCPA Career Awareness Program where she visited her alma mater, Spotswood High School, to talk to accounting students. She was invited to Governor Murphy’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration in May 2019.
Kyle M. Sell, CPA, CGMA
Partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP
As the 2019/20 president of the NJCPA, Kyle brought diversity and inclusion to the forefront. He regularly speaks on the topic at board and industry meetings as well as introduces colleagues who furthered the cause at local events. Kyle and his firm contributed $40,000 to the NJCPA Scholarship Fund to support diversity within the profession. As a father of four girls, Kyle routinely makes accounting professionals aware of the need for diversity and inclusion.
Recognizing savvy superstars who have been working in the accounting profession 10 years or less and have had noteworthy professional accomplishments; combined personal and professional achievements that merit special recognition; and/or actively participated in the advancement of the profession or NJCPA.
Zachary B. Cohen, CPA
Audit Manager at Prudential Financial, Inc.
Whether it's tax incentives related to student loans; the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce's annual "Walk to Washington" event; webinars; live virtual Q&A sessions regarding COVID-19 and student loans; or reallocating scholarship grants to CPAs, Zack’s dedication to the profession and to the NJCPA is truly commendable. He is an active member of the NJCPA Emerging Leaders Council and co-founded the Student Loan Task Force.
Michael J. Dionisio, CPA
Audit & Assurance Manager at Deloitte
In his eight years at Deloitte, Mike has demonstrated that he is a natural leader. He is a member of its New Jersey Talent Council, which is a group of high-performing managers who help direct the firm’s leadership. Mike is a coach for five staff members, acting as their advocate and helping to guide them in their career path. He is also a Deloitte contact for the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and a mentor with the NJCPA.
Amy E. Jennings, CPA
Supervisor at WilkinGuttenplani
Amy embodies an emerging leader. She co-leads WilkinGuttenplan’s Future Council, where she facilitates discussions about assisting young professionals and how they can be successful over the next five to 10 years. Amy is also involved in the firm’s Advisory Council, which handles everything from assisting with implementation of new technology to brainstorming efficiencies and CPE scheduling. She has become a great resource for younger staff.
Matthew R. Kmetz, CPA, MBA
Partner at Lizza, Kmetz & Associates LLP
Matthew is a trailblazer — both as a CPA and as a role model for young professionals. He has a passion for the accounting profession and a commitment to the growth of future CPAs. For the past nine years, Matthew has served as the site coordinator for Felician University's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which assists local community members with their taxes. He is currently serving a three-year term on the NJCPA Emerging Leaders Council and is a mentor in the scholarship program.
Robert N. Kusant, CPA, CISA, CFE, CAMS
Vice President, Senior Internal Auditor at Kearny Bank
Rob excels in everything he does, which shows not only through his four certifications, but his ability to take on new audit assignments and work on critical bank projects. He has routinely been the point person to ensure tasks are completed and are up to bank standards. In 2019, Rob received the New Jersey Bankers Rising Star award, recognizing leaders under 40. He also gained his Certified Information Systems Auditor certification.
Peter E. Motsch, CPA, MBA
Audit Manager at Friedman LLP
Since joining Friedman in 2015, Pete has helped grow its Accounting Services Group from seven clients to about 60. He serves the community in many ways from founding the Montclair State University Young Professionals Board in 2015 to serving as president and helping to establish a scholarship program. Pete serves on the NJCPA Student Programs & Scholarships Committee, was a “30 under 30” award recipient and has participated in the Career Awareness Program, which guides students toward accounting careers.
Philip Sookram, CPA, MAcc
Assistant Professor of Accountancy at Saint Peter’s University
Philip has had a significant impact on accounting students at Saint Peter’s University and its accounting program. The school’s 2019 accounting majors achieved a placement rate of 100 percent in the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Report. Philip assisted in the development and instruction of a new capstone course as part of the accounting curriculum called “Pathway to the CPA.” He also regularly speaks to students about their careers and is active in the NJCPA Emerging Leaders Council.
Recognizing full-time college accounting educators who distinguish themselves with their excellence in teaching and prominence in state-wide or regional activity to actively encourage careers in accounting and by serving as role models in academia.
Dr. James J. Carroll, CPA, CMA, CFE, CFM, CFF, CGMA
Professor at Georgian Court University
Jim's career as a full-time university professor spans more than three decades. He is also a frequent instructor and lecturer of CPE courses including his New Jersey Law & Ethics course — officially approved by the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy and renewed for the past 15 years. Jim was a member of the NJCPA Professional Conduct Committee for 12 years and, after a break in service, was asked to rejoin the committee. His legacy also includes a textbook entitled Investigating Entrepreneurial Opportunities published by Sage in 2000, a series of edited case books and hundreds of proprietary research reports/opinions.
Leonard Goodman, CPA, Ph.D., MBA
Professor and Department Vice Chair at Rutgers Business School
Len has been a professor at Rutgers since 1976. An inspirational leader with experience in both public and private accounting, he works tirelessly to help his colleagues, his students and those he mentors. Len recently taught Executive MBA students in Mainland China for the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and was an Academic Visitor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards.
Robert Scarpa, CPA, MBA
Assistant Chair and Instructor at Rowan University
Bob brings a variety of experiences to his post at Rowan. Before teaching, he held executive-level positions as controller, CFO and director of finance. He also created a CPA review course and a mock CPA Exam in association with a Surgent review course. Bob is a faculty advisor for three student organizations, including the Student Accounting Society, and is a faculty liaison to the accounting department's Accounting Advisory Board.
Recognizing those who dedicate meaningful time and energy to any of the following commendable endeavors: giving back to the community; sharing professional expertise to support others; or advancing the interests and needs of the accounting profession through active engagement, leadership or advocacy.
Kathleen Alexander, CPA, CFE, MST
Principal at Sax LLP
Kathleen’s contributions to the NJCPA, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) are well known. She helped enhance NJCPA’s discussions regarding the repeal of the estate tax and was heavily involved with conversations in Trenton. As Treasurer of CIANJ, Kathleen works to be an impactful voice for the business community and use her memberships in business associations and contacts to identify obstacles such as regulations that may be halting the growth of businesses across the state. In 2013, Kathleen was named one of NJBIZ’s Best Fifty Women in Business.
Christopher Cowan, CPA, CCIFP
Senior Manager at CohnReznick, LLP
Chris has made an impact on young professionals since 2012 when he was selected as an NJCPA “30 Under 30” award winner. He also was named a United Way "Young Altruistic Professional.” He has since received the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's "New Jersey's Finest Young Professionals" award, the Shore Builders Association of Central New Jersey's “Associate of the Year” and the National Association of Home Builders’ “Young Professional of the Year.”
Craig Dalinsky, CPA, CGMA
Vice President at SS&C Hedge Fund Services
Craig has been a key industry voice on the NJCPA Accounting & Auditing Interest Group for several years. During his time as chair, he has worked to make sure everyone was heard and that members were kept up to date on the activities of the NJCPA as well as the standard setters impacting the group. Craig was also a former leader of the FASB Accounting Standards interest group and was the principal author of several comment letters.
Rich Fuchs, CPA
Managing Partner at Prager Metis CPAs LLC
Since joining Prager Metis in 2018, Rich immediately embraced his role as managing partner of the Basking Ridge office. His frequent partner and staff meetings have had a significant impact on profitability, client service, culture and business development. In 2019, he was recognized by his fellow partners and staff by receiving the first ever Prager Metis Organization & Team Award. He also participated in the NJCPA Career Awareness Program for many years.
Jesse M. Herschbein, CPA, CGMA
Manager of Assurance at Prager Metis CPAs LLC
Jesse makes an impact on the accounting profession through all facets of his life — whether it's in volunteering, advocacy or emerging technologies. He is known to embrace change and rise to challenges, as well as encourage others to do the same. He is a member of the NJCPA Board of Trustees and is a past president of the Essex Chapter. He is a 2018 NJCPA Volunteer Award recipient.
John D. Kelly, Jr., CPA, MBA, MAFM
Owner at John D. Kelly CPA LLC
In his own words, John “loves helping people,” and those around him are thankful for the help. John’s work as a member of the NJCPA State Tax Task Force has been invaluable, particularly in liaising with the New Jersey Division of Taxation, where he previously served as a legislative liaison for more than nine years. He is also described by colleagues as a pleasure to work with and a team player.
Joseph A. McGrath, Jr., CPA
Audit & Assurance Senior Manager at Deloitte & Touche, LLP
Joe is well known for his dedication to the NJCPA and his alma mater, Lehigh University. He regularly volunteers on Lehigh’s Accounting Advisory Board and helps the accounting department develop their curriculum. At the NJCPA, he has won several awards, including the Volunteerism award, “30 under 30” and a 2019 Ovation Award in the Innovation category. At Deloitte, Joe sits on the Talent Council for the Parsippany office.
Brian G. Nafash, CPA
Manager at Massood & Company P.A. CPAs
Brian has dedicated many years to the NJCPA and the Passaic County Chapter in particular. He is a past president of the chapter and continues his involvement, this year serving as vice president. Described as a stalwart enthusiast for all Passaic County Chapter initiatives, Brian has definitely made an impact. He regularly participates in NJCPA committees and groups, including the Chapter Operations Committee and the Federation Taxation and State Taxation interest groups.
Steven V. Oroho, CFP®
New Jersey Senator and Investment Advisor at Stonebridge Capital Management
As a certified financial planner, Steve brings a wealth of knowledge to his position as New Jersey Senator for the 24th District, an office he has held since 2008. He also has been the Republican Budget Officer since 2019 and was the Conference Leader in 2018. He is on the Joint Budget Oversight, Budget and Appropriations and Economic Growth committees. Steve has worked closely with the NJCPA and other business groups in the support of business-friendly legislation. He has provided valuable insights to NJCPA members, particularly during the numerous times he was a panelist at the NJCPA Business and Economic Roundtable.
Marc M. Radin, CPA
Owner at Marc M. Radin, P.C.
Marc has led the NJCPA Bergen Practitioners Forum for the past two years, a discussion group for public-practice CPAs in Bergen County. By organizing meetings including arranging for venues, topics and speakers, Marc provides an invaluable networking and learning opportunity for dozens of small firm practitioners. He has also been vocal about tax issues, helping to write an op-ed critical of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s $10,000 cap on the federal deduction of New Jersey state and local property and income taxes enacted in 2017.
Alan D. Sobel, CPA, CGMA
Managing Member of the Firm at SobelCo, LLC
Inspiring CPAs, accounting professionals and legislators alike, Alan more than made his mark on the profession when he led the charge for the passage of the Pass-Through Business Alternative Income Tax Act. Alan worked with New Jersey legislature and the NJCPA to inform Governor Murphy’s office, which led to the Act’s signage into law. It has the potential to save taxpayers between $200 and $400 million annually since it allows pass-through businesses to pay New Jersey income taxes at the entity level instead of at the personal level.
Janine Zirrith, PAFM
Firm Administrator at WilkinGuttenplan
Janine has been with WilkinGuttenplan for over 35 years and has handled every aspect of firm operations from staffing, marketing and human resources to expanded admin staff and billing. She started the New Jersey Chapter of the CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA) and was its first president. She worked closely with the NJCPA to establish the Firm Administrator focus and went on to become president of the National CPAFMA, eventually recognized as Administrator of the Year.
Edward K. Zollars, CPA
Owner at Thomas Zollars & Lynch, Ltd
Though based in Phoenix, Arizona, Ed is no stranger to helping fellow CPAs in New Jersey. No one has given out more advice, recommendations or explanations relating to IRS regulations than Ed on the NJCPA Member Open Forum. Always giving his time and intellect, Ed truly makes an impact on all CPAs with whom he comes into contact. The amount of time he spends responding to even the smallest question shows how much he cares about his fellow colleagues and the accounting profession.
Honoring those who are transforming accounting at lightning speed: driving innovation of all kinds, as it relates to accounting — leveraging new technologies, using forward-thinking data analytics strategies, implementing alternative business models or rolling out experimental engagement strategies to improve employee culture.
Michael Levy, CIA, CRMA, MBA, CISA, CISSP
Director of Finance and Internal Audit at Student Transportation of America, Inc.
Mike has been at the leading edge of the accounting profession in many ways. He serves as an advisor and a board member of the Institute of Internal Auditors. He is frequently cited and published in the industry, and has won numerous awards. One of his primary areas of focus is on finance digital transformation and process improvement which includes the design of processes and evaluation of emerging finance technologies.
Karolis Matulis, CPA, CVA
Supervisor at WilkinGuttenplan
Karolis brings innovation to everything he does at WilkinGuttenplan. He is a guiding force in the firm’s use of data analytics, which is particularly useful amid the tax department’s annual scheduling process. He is also the go-to person for developing and enhancing the tax department’s business returns templates and the automation in trial balance grouping as well as importing into the tax software. Karolis is also a mentor to many young budding talent at the firm who see him as a future leader and enjoy working with him.
Manager of Technology and Client Services at MSPC CPAs
For the majority of her 20-plus year tenure at MSPC, Sherryll has led engagements implementing accounting software and has streamlined countless processes. She was recognized for achieving the most goals in the firm. Sheryll is a Microsoft Dynamics Certified Professional and a Quickbooks Certified Professional. She is a co-founder of the MSPC Executive Women's Networking Group also organizes fun team-building activities for her staff.
Celebrating the standout NJCPA member of exceptional merit for remarkable contributions to the accounting profession over the course of their career.
Walter J. Brasch, CPA, CGMA
Chief Success Officer at Prager Metis CPAs, LLC
Walter leads by example. Throughout his long career, he has always taken the time to guide individuals to achieve their goals. As a member of the NJCPA for more than 43 years, Walter has more than proven his dedication to the accounting profession, the Society and his colleagues. As a past president, secretary, treasurer and trustee of the NJCPA, Walter has made his mark on the Society. He was former chairman of the NJ-CPA-PAC, a former president of the Monmouth/Ocean Chapter, and chaired multiple other NJCPA committees.
WOMEN TO WATCH
Applauding the growth and success of female NJCPA members for their leadership, potential, contributions and/or commitment to fostering the success of their colleagues.
Amy Both, CPA
Manager at Withum
Amy exhibits leadership in her numerous volunteer roles with the NJCPA as well as in the accounting industry. She is a member of the Audit, Volunteer Relations, and Student Programs & Scholarships committees and the Governmental Accounting & Auditing, Accounting & Auditing, and Nonprofit, interest groups. She is also a trustee of NJ-CPA-PAC. Amy not only elevates and is supportive of others, she provides accounting, career and life advice to those she meets.
Melissa A. Dardani, CPA
Manager of Global Forensic Accounting Services at Baker Tilly
In recognition of her contributions to the NJCPA's efforts to build awareness and provide guidance and education to members around the issue of student loan debt, Melissa is clearly a woman to watch. She has been a highly effective NJCPA representative in front of state leaders and legislators to call attention to the plight of student loan debt holders in the state of New Jersey. Melissa also played a pivotal role in the development of a proposal and presentation to the NJCPA Scholarship Fund for a program to provide student loan debt relief to NJCPA members that will be launched in the fall of 2020.
Cathy Davis, CPA
Partner at MSPC CPAs
A born leader, Cathy is constantly looking to improve the way things are done in the profession. Having returned to the workforce after raising her son, she worked her way up to partner. As she advanced, she took others with her, mentoring along the way. As a manager and now partner, she has taken real ownership in team building. Cathy is a founder of the MSPC Executive Women’s Networking Group and is a frequent speaker at industry events.
Rachel F. Efthemes, CPA, MST
Senior Tax Manager at Mazars USA LLP
Rachel has participated in and led several firm initiatives, including Women@Mazars (an initiative to promote diversity, inclusion and equality) and Private Client Services for Women. She was a founding member and held several officer positions in the firm’s Toastmasters Club and also participates in the firm's community volunteer program and other philanthropic endeavors. Rachel was chosen to represent Mazars USA at the Mazars Women's Global Leadership Seminar in Milan, Italy in 2018.
Jessica Hoffman, CPA
Audit Senior Manager at Deloitte
Jessica’s knowledge of audit and accounting never ceases to amaze her colleagues. More importantly, Jessica takes the time to share her knowledge with all levels on her team. One of her most admirable traits is her passion and drive to be successful, as it is fueled by her selfless contributions and constant generosity. Jessica is a leader within the Women's Initiative Program (WIN) for Deloitte NJ.
Jessica Kizmann, CPA
Manager at WilkinGuttenplan
Jessica has a personal commitment to excellent client service and delivery. As one of the coordinators of WilkinGuttenplan’s internship program, she focuses on scheduling and providing internal assignments for eight to 12 interns during each internship session. She also mentors and guides four to five staff members each year on career development, goal setting and progression. She is a 2019 recipient of the Community Association Institute Award.
Elena Klarberg, CPA
Senior Associate at Sax LLP
Breaking the mold for a traditional CPA, Elena is a role model for all women. Deciding to go back to school later in life and earn her CPA, she truly encompasses a woman to watch. Elena is a valuable member of the NJCPA and was a scholarship recipient in 2015. At Sax, she is a resource and mentor for accounting and auditing associates and oversees the new hire training every November.
Sviatlana LiPuma, CPA
Partner at Friedman LLP
Sviatlana’s clients turn to her for services that will define their future, especially in cases involving IPO’s, mergers, private placement offerings, business acquisitions and other equity or capital raises. She serves a number of clients in New Jersey’s thriving life sciences industry. In 2019, Sviatlana was named to NJBIZ’s list of “Forty Under 40.” She is a member of the NJCPA Content Advisory Board.
Megan Sartor, CPA, ABV, CFF
Partner at Sax LLP
As a dedicated member of the NJCPA Board of Trustees and a leader at Sax, Megan is highly deserving of the Woman to Watch award. She is the partner-in-charge of her firm’s Valuation, Forensic, and Litigation Practice and one of the founders of its Professional Organization of Women for Empowerment & Results (P.O.W.E.R.) program, which contributes to the OASIS Breast Cancer Walk, Dress for Success and Partners for Women of Justice.
Katherine Zech, CPA
Senior Manager at PKF O’Connor Davies LLP
Kait has shown true leadership in all of her activities at the NJCPA. She is the outgoing chair of the Emerging Leaders Council and is currently the president of the Union County Chapter. Kait received the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey’s (CIANJ) Generation Now Game Changer Award in 2019 and co-founded the Early-Career Accounting Professionals Group at her firm.
NJCPA award recipients: