Mark of Excellence - A Profile in Teaching

As written by the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants

   In the world of continuing professional education for CPAs, there are instructors, and there are institutions. Fort Collins CPA Mark J. Soukup is an institution. Since 1984, he’s been sharing his special blend of up-to-the minute content and engaging presentation style with CPAs across Colorado and in other states, too. Those who attend his tax planning and update classes routinely describe him as knowledgeable, understandable, helpful, well organized, and practical – along with clever, relevant, insightful, and superb – who gives excellent guidance on “what to” and “how to” with clients and issues. 

Recently, we asked Mark about becoming a CPA and a CPE instructor. Read on. You’ll no doubt be surprised to learn some of these details and not surprised at all to learn what motivates Mark to be the best instructor he can be… It’s just who he is.

When Mark entered college, he thought he was destined to become a lawyer practicing in the social justice area. Nonetheless, he took an accounting course, didn’t study much (he says), and – much to the dismay of most of his struggling fellow students – earned an A+. It was a sign of great things to come. 

Lack of money for tuition taught him important lessons along the way. During his junior year at Colorado State University (CSU), Mark’s college funds dried up, so he approached the director of the Fort Collins Parks and Recreation Department, whom he knew, about a fulltime job. He spent the next six months as a decently paid grave digger. As he puts it, “If anything motivated me to finish college and get the best grades I could, that job certainly did.”

As a senior, Mark benefited from two more life lessons. First, Fred Norwood, then head of the CSU accounting department, noticed that Mark hadn’t signed up to interview with the Big 8 CPA firms. (Yes, for you younger readers, there used to be eight of them.) When asked why, Mark recalls saying he wasn’t sure the Big 8 was where he wanted to begin his career. Norwood’s reply: “Do me a favor and sign up.” Mark had the top GPA in the program, and Norwood wanted the Big 8 firms to meet CSU’s best.

And, they did. Every firm Mark met invited him to Denver for a final interview. He chose Arthur Andersen for the people – and then, tuition money ran out again, the final quarter of his senior year.

This time, Fred Norwood’s secretary played a role in the life lesson, too. Two days after mentioning to her that he’d have to delay graduation due to his financial situation, Mark received a letter notifying him that he’d won an honorary accounting scholarship covering tuition and fees for one quarter.

Mark proceeded to ask around so he could write the appropriate thank you note. But, no one had ever heard of the honorary scholarship. When he went to Norwood’s office to ask the secretary, she didn’t have any answers either – but she winked and said, “Fred always takes care of his students and pays back his favors. Now, don’t tell anyone I said that!” So began Mark’s commitment to helping others starting out in life. 

After two years in the Andersen audit department, Mark knew he really liked the people and the clients, but, in his words, he “hated auditing.” He wanted to retool and thought he’d go for a doctorate and teach accounting at the university level. So, he signed up for the Masters of Science in Taxation program at CSU, and took his first class, Tax Research, with Mike Vaughn, also his masters program advisor. Mark credits Vaughn for his immediate and now life-long love affair with taxation.

In 1974, Mark joined the Colorado Society of CPAs. The following year, he became a Colorado CPA. Ten years later, he’d begun to do exactly what he set out to do: “Pay back the great mentors and teachers I had in college by passing on their passion and excitement for our profession.” 

Today, Mark still likes to learn new things and says he always learns at least one new thing every time he teaches a class. Those who attend his classes say:

• “Great presentation; I plan to attend Mark’s classes from now on.”

• “Mark continues to be the best instructor I get to hear.”

• “Mark is the best instructor and actually discusses real-world practice gray issues, as well as practical options that apply to my practice.”

• “I’m a repeat customer going back 15 years.”

• “Mark does an excellent job. I try to attend this class every year.

If you’ve attended a Mark Soukup class, you already know the value you’ll receive – and the fun you’ll have, too. If you haven’t attended one of his presentations, now is the time to experience for yourself why he rates an average 4.89 on a 5-point scale for presentation. Register for one today, and find out or remember why Mark Soukup is a Colorado institution.