Making Their Mark
It All Added Up
Born and raised in Miami, accountant Donald J. Butler had never counted on college as being a part of his life story.
“I had a job – jobs, really – doing carpentry and maintenance during the day and running a series of small businesses on the side,” he said. “I made a good living and had a reasonable amount of success.”
But then in the summer of 1971, when he and his wife were expecting their first child, something struck him. “I knew that I would insist that my child attended college upon high school graduation, but how could I do that without even trying college for myself?” Butler recalled.
It was then that he decided to lead by example. Beginning the very same day his son was born, Butler started down his path to higher education at Miami Dade College.
A partner at Marcum LLP specializing in tax and business services, he now finds it ironic in retrospect that he hadn’t ever considered the field of accounting prior to meeting with the dean of admissions at MDC, who looked at Butler’s entrepreneurial successes and business experience and suggested he give it a try.
“Thankfully, I took to accounting like a fish to water, frequently leading the class with my grades,” Butler said. “If it was not for the caring and collaborative faculty at Miami Dade College, I could have missed out on what has proven to be my vocation.
“From starting my education at MDC all the way through the CPA exam, I value the lessons, literal and figurative, that I learned at MDC,” he added. “Now, as a partner at a national tax and accounting firm, I fondly think back and wonder what I would have done without the giving learning community of Miami Dade College.”
At the Helm
For Carmen Elias-Levenson, accounting runs in the family. Her mother was an accountant and now Elias-Levenson has followed in her footsteps, first working with a large national firm and now owning one of her own in Miami Lakes.
“Accounting is a great profession because no matter what happens with the economy, people will always need accountants,” said Elias-Levenson, who was born in Cuba and came to Miami at age 4 when her family moved here.
“We have a very tight-knit family, so when it came time to get my degree, of course I chose Miami Dade College, both to be close to home and because MDC offers a great education at such an affordable price,” she said.
Her brothers also studied at MDC, one becoming a civil engineer and the other an entrepreneur who opened his own business, just like she has done with her talents as a CPA.
Working in what is often considered a male-dominated field can be a challenge, but Elias-Levenson offers sound advice on how to excel.
“I always tell women wanting to enter accounting that it is harder for women than men,” she said. “But that didn’t stop me from achieving my goals, nor should it stop them.”
With that winning attitude, Elias-Levenson has gone far. Despite her packed schedule, she still finds time to give back to the community in numerous volunteer activities, including serving as president of the Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of Zonta International, a professional women’s organization.
Seizing the Chance
Serving as the managing partner of the Miami office of Ernst & Young LLP, MDC Hall of Fame alumnus Héctor Tundidor knows the value of opportunity.
“I always knew that I wanted to go to business school and ultimately own my own business like my parents did,” Tundidor said. For him, the way to achieve that began at MDC with his first accounting class.
“I loved it,” he said. “This was the class that made me start asking questions about an accounting major as opposed to a business or finance major.”
After graduation, Tundidor began his career as an auditor and transitioned several years later into the field of mergers and acquisitions. He now specializes in international investments and has conducted due diligence for more than 250 transactions in Latin America, Europe and the U.S. ranging in value from $2 million to $20 million. He also serves as Florida Transaction Advisory Services Leader and on the boards of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA), the United Way of Miami-Dade and Ernst & Young’s diversity and inclusiveness task force.
“What matters most is what you make of the opportunities,” said Tundidor. “Nothing in life worth having comes easy.”
Counting on Success
Numerous accountants who have risen to the top of their industry began their ascent with an education at MDC. Some of our noteworthy alumni include:
- Mirtha Alvarez Carballo, Accountant and Senior Tax Partner, Vizcaino, Gitlin & Zomerfeld LLP
- Barry M. Brant, Director of Tax, Consulting and International Services, Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant
- Jorge N. De La Torre, Partner, Kabat, Schertzer, De La Torre, Taraboulos & Co.
- Luis E. Díaz, Partner, Sharff, Wittmer, Kurtz & Jackson P.A. CPAs
- Miguel G. Farra, J.D., Principal in Charge of Tax and Accounting, Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra LLC
- Tanya Ferreiro, Accountant and Principal, Kaufman Rossin & Co. P.A.
- Michael D. Futterman, Partner, Assurance Services, Marcum LLP
- Manuel M. García, Accountant and Partner, GLSC and Co. PLLC
- Jorge H. Jordan, Founder and CEO, Jordan and Co. CPA P.A.
- Héctor Mojena, Managing Partner, KPMG Miami Office
- José A. Riesco, Accountant and Consultant, Riesco and Co. LLC
- José Ramón Rodríguez, Regional Professional Practice Partner, KPMG LLP, and Chairman, KPMG Foundation
- Carlos A. Sabater, U.S. Audit Leader, Deloitte & Touche LLP
— HP, BK