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Twenty-fifth anniversary reminiscences.

Bob McDonough is kind enough in his President's Corner column to note that earlier this summer I observed my 25th anniversary as a member of TEI's staff. During this period, TEI has experienced remarkable growth--our membership has more than doubled from 3,400 to more than 7,000; the number of chapters has increased from 44 to 54 now (and the number of countries represented from 2 to 28; and our financial reserves are nearly 11 times the $650,000 they were a quarter century ago. Equally important, the depth and breadth and scope of Institute's educational, advocacy, and networking activities have changed dramatically.


Since 1944, TEI has enjoyed one success after another, and I am delighted to have been along for the ride during the last quarter century. Lest anyone think that I am claiming credit for the Institute's growth and success, I want to disabuse them of that notion. TEI is second to none because its members are second to none and because its members have remained committed to TEI's being their organization. I am not sure whether June 7, 1982--the date of my interview with the Institute--was the first time I heard the term "member driven," but I heard it then and countless times since then. Being member-driven is the reason our educational programs resonate, our technical submissions are suffused with practicality, and our value as a networking organization is without parallel. I am still awed, but no longer surprised, by the commitment, professionalism, and selflessness of the Institute's volunteer leaders at the chapter, regional, and Institute levels.

I am similarly taken by the commitment of the government officials and practitioners who speak at our meetings, write for our publications, or otherwise advance good tax policy and administration that remain at the center of the Institute's goals and objectives. I am also unendingly grateful for the skill, dedication, and good humor of the men and women of TEI's staff I have had the pleasure of working for and with over the years. I have learned much more than I have taught and am humbled by their support and their dedication to the Institute.

At a gathering to commemorate my anniversary, I was asked to make a few remarks. To help me abide by the instruction to be brief, it was suggested that I formulate my comments as a top ten list. Accordingly, here the top 10 things TEI members should know about Timothy McCormally:

10. He's always on a diet. Since he joined TEI, he has lost 3,863 pounds. Unfortunately, he's gained 3,894 pounds. Well, after today, make that 3,901 pounds.

9. He likes Diet Coke. If not for him--and, okay, Eli Dicker, too--Pepsi would have surpassed Coca-Cola years ago.

8. He is drawn to strong women. His wife, Judy, and two daughters, Kathleen and Erin, are bright, brave, and accomplished. Forces to be reckoned with all. The women at TEI are equally strong and formidable ... and forgiving, too. This is especially true of Deborah Gaffney and Debbie Giesey and Mary Lou Fahey (who collectively have logged more than 60 years with Timothy), but it applies across the board--to Cathy Flake, Christine Hayes, Lisa Cowley, Ruth Robinson, Sherice Brown, and Shirley Grimmett. All of them. It may be too early to say anything about Kara Mooney and Shannelle Cleckley (TEI's two newest hires--neither of whom was born in 1982!), but there's not a shrinking violet in the group. And that's a good thing.

7. He's been incredibly lucky to have tremendous male mentors, teachers, and coworkers. He has benefitted and learned from all the men he's worked for and with. Exhibit A is probably former Executive Director Mike Murphy, but Eli Dicker, Jeff Rasmussen, Joe Brooks, and Lars DeSalvio--and the men who preceded them--have all been generous with their time, their knowledge, and their patience. They--and the women on the staff, too-have all had to suffer through Timothy's on-the-job training. He thanks them for their loyalty to TEI and their patience with him.

6. He owes a debt of gratitude to the wives and husbands and partners of the people he's worked with--Alan Lichter, George Ziener, Helain Dicker, Joanne DeSalvio, J.P. Robinson, Nancy Brooks, and Olga Rasmussen. He thanks them for sharing their soulmates with TEI and for being there, for them, especially when Timothy has misstepped ... and even when he hasn't.

5. He spends a lot of time thinking of words and language and how to say things ... even though they don't always come out the way he intended.

4. He continually brags and dotes on his family (even if they don't know it) and--oh, by the way--his granddaughter Tessa is pretty darn cute. He also brags on the quality and commitment and integrity of his fellow staffers.

3. His mother always insisted that his name was Timothy, even when his father, siblings, and friends called him Tim, and that's what he'll say his preference is, but it doesn't really matter, just don't--referring to item # 10, call him late for dinner.

2. He talks too much and couldn't send a short email if his life depended on it.

1. He can't count and only came up with nine things. No wait, here's truly the number one thing you need to know about Timothy--he thinks that, properly, this is a celebration of everyone who makes up the TEI family. Thanks for letting him share the past 25 years with you.

TTE Redux

Five years ago, on the occasion of my 20th anniversary with TEI, the Editor of The Tax Executive published an interview with me (we used the same barber), which attempted to capture "what I've learned" during the prior two decades. Published under the caption "It Was 20 Years Ago Today," it is reprinted below.

TTE: Timothy, the Beatles were singing about Billy Shears, not you, when they made famous the phrase "It was 20 years ago today." But as we begin this look back at your TEI career, I wondered whether you see any special significance in "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band"?

McCormally: Special significance in the lyrics of Sgt. Pepper's? Hmmm. I'm not one to see life wholly through Beatles' songs, like the Sean Penn character in "I am Sam," but I can, without straining, point to three songs from Sgt. Pepper's that fit my TEI experience: I get by with a little help from my friends; it's getting better all the time; and will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?

TTE: Intriguing, but before delving into why you picked those songs, rather than "Fixing a Hole," "Lovely Rita Meter Maid," or "Within You, Without You," let's cover a little bit of personal background. You've been on the staff for two decades, but a lot of our readers may not know much about your pre-TEI life. As Mike Murphy used to say, "Tell us a little bit about yourself."

McCormally: Ted Baxter used a line on the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, "It all started at a 5,00 watt radio station in Fresno." Well, my beginnings were in the Midwest ... and in the print media. I was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, and grew up on a small farm not too far out of town. My dad was editor of the newspaper and one of our rites of passage was a paper route ... which my brothers and I delivered on horseback. In 1965, my family moved to Burlington, Iowa, which is on the Mississippi River, where I delivered the newspapers on foot or by car. After high school, I attended the University of Iowa, where I majored in political science and sociology, and then moved on to Georgetown University for law school. After my second year of law school, I had the good fortune to clerk in Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan's Washington office, and I joined the firm as an associate upon graduation in 1976. I was at Sutherland in 1982 when TEI came calling.

TTE: I understand that some of your brothers followed in your father's footsteps as journalists. What caused you to go into law and, specifically, tax law.

McCormally: It's true that three of my four brothers have spent time as journalists, but what everyone in the family--there are seven of us altogether--learned from my father was a love of words and a passion for using them effectively. Someone once said, "I don't think of you as a lawyer who writes well, but as a writer who knows the law." I don't know whether he meant it as a compliment, but I took it as one.

Anyway, while interested in writing and journalism (I spent one summer as a reporter for the college newspaper), I always wanted to be a lawyer. Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster, Clarence Darrow, Perry Mason, E.G. Marshall in The Defenders, all that stuff. As for taxes, it was pretty much serendipitous. While in law school, I interned for my local congressman, Ed Mezvinsky, who was on the Judiciary Committee, which was investigating whether President Nixon should be impeached. I obviously followed the proceedings during the summer of 1974, but when I joined the Georgetown Law Journal that fall, I helped edit an article by Congressman Mezvinsky on tax evasion as an impeachment offense. The following summer I clerked for Sutherland, Asbill, and did a fair amount of tax work. When I returned to Sutherland after graduation, my course as a tax lawyer had been pretty well set.

TTE: And the move to TEI?

McCormally. What's the explanation you always see in the newspaper? "Mr.__ will resign at the end of the month to spend more time with his family." After six years in private practice, it was time to move on. One of the things I spent a lot of time on while at Sutherland was a client coalition focused on the independent contractor issue. My job was not only to help coordinate our clients' collective position, but to interact with other groups to present as common a front as possible. The experience taught me that "he who volunteers to be the scribe retains control" and, further, that the bigger the group, the harder it is to keep it together. Both lessons have serve me--and, I think, TEI--well.

The opportunity that TEI gave me to write was also important. In fact, when Tom Maletta [TEI's 1981-1982 President] hired me, he said one of my jobs was "to improve TEI's penmanship," meaning to make us stand out by the quality of our writing. My first boss at TEI, Executive Director Ned Sprague, joined the Institute at the same time I did, and he was a rarity in my experience--a respected economist who wrote exceptionally well.


TTE: And the hours? The spending time with your family?

McCormally: Although I told my wife at the time my hours at TEI would be fewer than in law practice, that's not the way it turned out. And, after three decades of marriage, she knows the cause is not the job but her husband. But, my hours notwithstanding, my family has greatly benefitted during my time with TEI. My two daughters, Kathleen and Erin, grew up in TEI. We joke that Erin attended her first TEI conference--the 1983 Midyear--before she was born in May of that year, and over the years, both girls have not only learned poise and deportment but also had a lot of fun and visited some very nice places. Before Erin's first college interview, she was quite anxious, despite her father's insistence that she had nothing to worry about. It was Judy who got her to relax: "Scooter, just think of it as another TEI reception." She took a deep breath, went into the room, and nailed it. Seven years earlier Kathleen did the same time. My children benefitted, at a different level, from what every TEI member can in terms of his or her personal and professional development: interaction with the best, the brightest, and--in my view--the nicest people around.

Not too get all mushy, but TEI is a family. Some of my best friends in the world are TEI members, and I think one of the reasons that TEI is able to accomplish all that it does it that the Institute is more than a trade organization and more than a professional association; it is a network of people with mutual goals and a common vision ... who care about each other. Don't take it from me, however. Consider just one case. Harry McKeon of the New England Chapter was a member of TEI for more than 30 years, and his father was a member before him. Harry mentored countless members and gave the Institute his all. And even though he retired in 1995, as he lay dying in mid-July 2002, he asked his family to call TEI, to let us know.., because that's what families do. I was humbled to take the call from Harry's daughter, and am proud to be part of the same family.

TTE: That seems like a good place to segue back to St. Pepper's. Do you want to elaborate on the three songs you mentioned at the outset?

McCormally: Well, "I get by with a little help from my friends" isn't really accurate. I get by with a lot of help from my friends. For 20 years, I have had the privilege of working with smart, dedicated, and forgiving TEI members and fellow staffers. It is only through their forbearance--their willingness to share their insights and to share the credit of their good work--that I have been able to contribute to TEI's success. I am especially proud of the longevity of the Institute's staff: Excluding me, there are five people (out of thirteen) who have served TEI for more than 10 years. [Editor's Note: In 2007, the numbers are more impressive: 2 members (in addition to Timothy) have been on the staff for more than 20 years, 2 have been there 19 years, one 16, and still another nearly 9 years.]

As for "getting better all the time," I hesitated before mentioning that lyric. We live in challenging times for tax professionals, with a stream of headlines, investigations, allegations, and bad karma "taking the fun out" of doing taxes. Nevertheless, we have unending opportunities. TEI has excelled for nearly 60 [in 2007, now 63] years because it has always adopted stretch objectives to improve ourselves and the tax system. The value of our educational offerings, the effectiveness of our advocacy efforts, the unmatched nature of our professional development opportunities--all these things make it exciting to be working for TEI.

TTE: And "When I'm Sixty-Four'? Are you signalling a desire to stay with TEI until you reach that milestone?

McCormally: No, although Mike Murphy was 65 when he retired, I didn't intend to signal anything. I just like the song. A better third song, however, is probably one of the ones you mentioned: "Fixing a Hole." It has the following lyrics that wrap up my view on my 20th anniversary with TEI:
 And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong
 I'm right
 Where I belong I'm right
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Title Annotation:Less Taxing Matters
Author:McCormally, Timothy J.
Publication:Tax Executive
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Previous Article:In remembrance of John J. Quick.
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