Dr. Glenn Pfeiffer
Dr. Glenn Pfeiffer

Dr. Glenn Pfeiffer

If you happen to look at the base of Glenn Pfeiffer’s computer monitor, you’d spy a number taped there currently at 5,059 and counting. The figure reminds Chapman University’s Provost his purpose as an educator.

“The number, which keeps climbing, indicates how many students I’ve taught to date,” says Pfeiffer, who began teaching accounting in 1980. “It’s a reminder of how, though I have other educational roles, I’m really here for the students. Knowing that I’ve made an impact on the lives of students has sustained and fulfilled me all of these years.”

Since joining Chapman in 1995 as an accounting professor, Pfeiffer has made his mark as an excellent educator. He has taught financial accounting and financial analysis to undergraduate, MBA, Executive MBA and law students. His work as an educator has garnered him several awards, including the 2007 Valerie Scudder Award for excellence in teaching and service to the university.

In addition to instructing many students over the years, Pfeiffer has helped build and elevate Chapman’s accounting department, which is now considered one of the best in California.

Chapman University Provost

Prior to becoming Provost in September 2016, Pfeiffer also served as Associate Dean for the Argyros School of Business and Economics, Vice Chancellor and Faculty Senate President. His current work as Provost greatly affects student experience. He is responsible for creating and implementing academic priorities and allocating resources to support those priorities. He also works with deans on curriculum and oversees the hiring of topnotch faculty.

“Glenn has been instrumental in improving the quality of Chapman University and the Argyros School of Business and Economics,” says Candace Ybarra, Associate Professor, Associate Dean, Academic Programs at The George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics.

“He is an excellent and rigorous accounting professor, who helped improve the quality of our accounting students such that they are highly recruited by top accounting firms in the nation,” says Ybarra. “As Provost, he has provided immense support in the hiring process to be able to hire high-caliber faculty from across the country and to develop and support innovative, quality programs.”

Chapman University President, Daniele Struppa, agrees. “Glenn has excellent management abilities and great organizational skills. He is very solid, does not get riled up, and always looks at each issue with great calm and unflappable, rational thinking. I am very happy to have him as a central part of our team. I also have the utmost respect for Glenn as a person. He has great personal integrity and his commitment to Chapman is truly selfless.”

Michigan Beginnings

Pfeiffer grew up during the 1960s in Grand Haven, Michigan, a small resort town of 12,000 on western Lake Michigan. He’s the oldest of four, with two younger brothers and a younger sister. As a kid, he was into sports and hadn’t intended on being a college professor. When Hope College in Michigan recruited him to play basketball, he attended and majored in Economics. From there he went on to earn a Masters in Finance and a PhD in Accounting from Cornell University. Becoming an accounting professor was a natural next step.

After earning his doctorate in 1980, he went on to teach Introductory Accounting at the University of Washington in Seattle and found he really enjoyed teaching. He also taught accounting at the University of Arizona and the University of Chicago before joining Chapman’s faculty in 1995.

While at the University of Chicago, Pfeiffer got a call from Chapman. One of his fraternity brothers had referred him, because the university sought an accounting professor.

“I’d never heard of Chapman. They called me in January, so I decided to visit and fell in love with the university. The enthusiasm at Chapman was and still is positive and infectious,” says Pfeiffer, who met, Kathleen, his wife of more than 19 years, when he moved to Orange County. The couple has a daughter, Jaclyn.

“People at Chapman know intrinsically that five years from now the university will be an even better place, and it always is,” says Pfeiffer. “We’ve built something very special here, and many people around the country have taken notice. We also have great community support.”

Pfeiffer believes that one reason Chapman stands out is the university’s interdisciplinary approach, which he champions. “I’m serious about having students study outside their disciplines, which is what develops well-rounded students and employees,” he says. “What sets Chapman graduates apart are their interpersonal, professional and communications skills and their breadth of knowledge beyond their respective majors.”

Economics and Accounting Research

During his career, Pfeiffer has also completed research in the areas of economics and accounting, especially as these areas relate to business. A 2015 study he co-authored, which published in the journal, Accounting Horizons, looked at the relationship between performance-based compensation and firm value as it relates to the stock market.

“I’ve always had an inquisitive nature, so what I like about research is the excitement of figuring things out,” says Pfeiffer. “It’s also enjoyable to sometimes see things work out differently than you’d expect.”

In addition to peer reviewed research articles in journals, Pfeiffer has published three accounting textbooks, an accounting casebook and numerous case studies in financial accounting and reporting. Some of the textbooks he uses when teaching.

Pfeiffer’s goal when he teaches accounting has always been to make a subject that people tend to think of as inherently boring, interesting. He does this by sharing real-life business accounting case studies.

“Just recently, we discussed how Google used its operations in Ireland to avoid paying taxes before the recent tax act,” he says. “Throughout my teaching career, I’ve taught along the lines of the Harvard Case Method. Students prepare their own case studies and present them during class. This participative method results in engaging classes and an active learning environment.”

Standout Teaching

Pfeiffer’s teaching techniques are effective. Lacy Willis had Pfeiffer as a teacher when she was an accounting major at Chapman in the early 2000s. Today, she is an Instructor of Accounting in the George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman.

“Glenn is a really great teacher,” says Willis. “He’s incredibly challenging, but in a fair and engaging way. His classes are difficult, but his students understand that he’s challenging them in order to make them better and smarter. I credit Glenn with my success in the early years of my career as a Certified Public Accountant—primarily because of how well he prepared me to take and pass the CPA exam. His classes were challenging, but in a way that really made me learn and understand the material, not just memorize it for an exam.”

Today, Willis strives to follow in Pfeiffer’s footsteps as an instructor.

“Glenn has been a really wonderful mentor and friend. Now that I’m teaching the classes that I took with him, I find myself trying to do for my students what Glenn did for me. I want to challenge them and push them in ways that they may not appreciate now, but they will definitely appreciate later when they realize how much they learned and remember from the classes.”

One of Pfeiffer’s greatest joys is hearing from students, like Willis, who have graduated. “It’s always fun to learn of student successes, especially when they return and tell me they now realize what I taught them is important and useful in their careers,” says Pfeiffer. “It’s so satisfying to know that I’ve had an impact on student careers and lives.” 

Article Published in the
Sep / Oct 18 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Julie Bawden-Davis photos provided by Jeanine Hill
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