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When it Comes to Change, Rita Gow Practices what She Preaches

Faculty members who teach in the Division of Business and Management bring significant, real-world experience to the classroom.

For example, take Rita Gow, associate professor of accounting, who came to Keuka College in 2005 after a distinguished career at Ernst & Young, a public accounting firm in Boston, Mass. She also worked for a Fortune 500 company, not-for-profit organizations including the Susan B. Anthony House (a national historic landmark), and a family-run insurance agency.

“Teaching is a different culture than I was used to, but I did what I tell everyone—persevere,” said Gow, who retired after the 2013 fall semester. “It’s OK to try new things, to take a chance and do something different. Change can be invigorating.”

In fact, change was the focus of the speech she delivered at academic convocation—her reward for being named Professor of the Year in 2011.

Gow said change “pushes us outside our comfort zone.

“But it’s good to step outside that box,” she said at the ceremony. “We all feel a bit of anxiety at some point—this is not necessarily a bad thing. It can motivate you.”

And motivation is what can help students who may be struggling in their classes.

“If a student is simply willing to try, work hard and persevere, they will succeed,” said Gow. “The College has had some fantastic success stories, including those who work for one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms or have done well in graduate school. We have had students work at both Ernst & Young and KPMG, and many have found success at both large and small accounting firms.”

Reflecting on her years at Keuka, Gow said “there are a lot of hard-working people [here] and I’ve been lucky to work with some really great students, like Joe DeBarr ‘12. He came to Keuka, while his twin brother went to SUNY Albany. Both were accounting majors. Every so often, I’d ask Joe how he liked it here and if he was considering transferring to Albany. Each time, he said ‘no’ [to the second part of the question]. While he enjoyed visiting his brother, the culture at Keuka was a perfect fit for him.”

After graduation, both brothers applied—and were accepted—to Syracuse University for graduate school.

“To me, this is a great success story,” said Gow. “It says that even though Keuka has a small accounting major, we have proven over and over that it is still rigorous enough to compete with a larger program.”

Gow said  ”it’s been fun to see the students come in as freshmen and evolve into seniors. I like that I may have had a part in helping students grow, even if they are not accounting majors. I like that about my job.

“Sometimes, I’ll get a note, or card, or Facebook message from a former student thanking me for teaching them. It’s not always obvious to them at the time that they will use what they have learned here. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard ‘I wish I’d paid more attention in accounting…’”

If she had collected those nickels, she might have saved them and used them to visit her daughter, who will move to Capetown, South Africa.

“My husband and I might use Capetown as a jumping off point to travel some more,” said Gow. “We will also visit my son and his wife in Virginia, who have three daughters, including twins. They are all under 3-years-old.”

And while Gow plans to travel, Keuka Lake will always be home.

“We live on Keuka Lake and we love it here, so we plan to stay,” said Gow. “I am active in the community, including serving as treasurer for the Keuka Housing Council, and the board of the Yates Community Endowment Fund. I may also teach Accounting for Managers, a course I have taught before, in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).”


2 Responses to When it Comes to Change, Rita Gow Practices what She Preaches

  1. Professor Gow was professor of the year in 2011, my freshman year. I had her the following year for Accounting I & II, an award honor well deserved! It was nice to see her “hands on approach” to learning applied in the classroom where she would not only teach the material, but walk around and help the students who needed it to assure that they understood the material. It was truly a privilege to have her as a professor and I wish her the best of luck in retirement,

    God Bless & Good Luck with everything!

  2. Anne Weed says:

    Best wishes to you, Rita, and thank you for all your great work on behalf of Keuka College’s students!

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