Carl Messere Leaves a Legacy for Poole College
By Lea Hart
Former Accounting Department Head Carl Messere passed away in early September.
Loved and respected by countless family, friends, former colleagues and students, Messere will be remembered in so many meaningful ways.
He was a husband, father and grandfather, a Marine, and a former college football coach.
Within the Poole College of Management, he was the person hired to create the Department of Accounting. He did it with the heart and soul of a coach, putting students first and creating an environment where he built consensus and set each member of his team up for success.
It speaks volumes that Messere hired and mentored many faculty members who, decades later, continue to impact the accounting program and the college. Among them is Frank Buckless, Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Dean of the Poole College of Management. Buckless credits Messere as a significant influence on his own leadership style.
“Outside of my family, he was the most influential person in my life,” Buckless said. “He was a strong mentor and I knew I could always count on him.
“There’s so much I learned from him over my career — he’s made me a better person and I think he’s done that for a lot of people.”
Messere’s former students echo similar sentiments. For some, he came to be more than a mentor — he became a friend.
When Mike (Business Management ’84, Accounting ’85) and Lori Constantino (Business Management ’84) decided to endow the Poole Faculty Enrichment Fund, the impact Messere and other faculty had on Mike’s life was front-of-mind. Mike and Lori later lived within walking distance of Messere and his wife, Trish — spending significant time together and becoming lifelong friends.
“He was a character that everybody would remember if they had his class,” Mike said. “He was a larger-than-life person.”
Building a Department and Building a Team
Messere joined the United States Marine Corp in 1954. He understood the importance of education as well and later enrolled at Appalachian State University where he studied accounting and played on the football team. He ultimately became head coach of the football team in 1965 while also teaching at Appalachian State.
He remained head coach until 1971, when he turned his attention solely to teaching. He enrolled at the University of South Carolina and completed his doctoral studies in 1976.
Messere was hired to build the accounting department at North Carolina State University that same year. At the time there was no College of Management, with business classes housed between the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the College of Agriculture, said Paul Williams, accounting professor emeritus, whom Messere hired in 1985.
“He stayed on top of what was going on across the campus, he knew what was best for our group, and he took care of us,” Williams said. “He let everyone know they were appreciated.”
Williams notes that it was difficult at the time to hire Ph.D.s because there was no business school at NC State and most were looking for that environment. Messere, however, still found a way.
As Constantino recalls, “he was the right person at the right time for NC State.” In the 1980s, the Research Triangle Park was taking shape and all of what were then the “Big Eight” accounting firms were expanding or setting up shop in the area.
“He seized that opportunity and grew the program by leaps and bounds,” Constantino said. “He attracted some really talented faculty members who were focused on teaching and very hands-on.”
Many of those he hired in the late 1980s and early 1990s are central figures on campus today. In addition to Buckless, Messere hired former Accounting Department Head Kathy Krawczyk, now professor emeritus, as well as Roby Sawyers, current accounting department head and FORVIS Professor of Accounting, and many others during that time.
“That’s a sign that speaks to him — we’re all still here,” Krawczyk said.
Many of those faculty members were in the early stages of their careers, she said, and Messere brought his coach mentality to the department, hiring faculty and laying out the steps ahead for them — with the intent that each would stay and receive tenure.
Williams said Messere always seemed to have his finger on the pulse of his faculty in any given circumstance, much like a coach knows where his team is on any given day.
“He knew what the mood would be,” Williams said. “He had some great people skills.”
Messere supported each of them as they took the next steps in their careers at NC State, Krawczyk said.
“Our department has grown a lot — and grown in terms of quality and the way that it’s viewed across the United States,” she said. “A lot of that was Carl’s doing.”
Messere was a visionary and a strong supporter of furthering the program, including the creation of the Jenkins Master of Accounting (MAC) Program, Sawyers said. He almost seemed to know such a program would be a necessary addition before others in the field realized it.
“You can’t overstate his influence in the development of what we now see at the Poole College of Management,” Sawyers said.
Because the department was so young, Sawyers and Krawczyk recall being given a lot of responsibility early-on in their careers.
“He was a great mentor,” Krawcyk said. “He gave us opportunities to be on committees, to chair committees; opportunities to expand what we did.”
Turnover was virtually zero, Williams said.
“He created an environment where everyone could thrive, not just certain people,” he said. “He changed my life, that’s for sure.
“There are those people you have in your life that enabled you rather than disabled you; Carl was that – he enabled me and I’ll be eternally grateful for that.”
Through it all, Messere had a “students first” attitude. He continued to teach courses as he served as an administrator, Williams said.
“He taught like he coached football, in my mind,” Constantino recalled. “He stood at a blackboard and went through tax code topics, highlighting rules and exceptions — it reminded me of a coach drawing up a play on a blackboard.
“He was a great teacher and he really wanted to see his students succeed.”
His support for students extended beyond the classroom. Messere took the time to develop relationships with accounting firms to ensure NC State students would get noticed and get hired, Constantino said. He and other faculty members understood the importance of becoming a CPA and passing the CPA Exam, taking it upon themselves to offer students an eight-week CPA Exam preparation course on the weekends while Constantino was a student.
And those students went on to find success. Constantino retired several years ago as a partner from EY and was recently honored by NC State with a Watauga Medal.
Through it all, Messere was genuinely interested in his students’ lives. Constantino recalls a group of students would meet occasionally for a beer on Hillsborough Street and Messere would sometimes stop by to catch up and chat with the group.
Leaving a Legacy
As those that knew him well reflect on Messere’s legacy to the Poole College of Management, it’s evident he built more than a program — he built an environment where students and faculty could flourish.
He was the head coach encouraging his team to do its best. He built important relationships within the university and with external partners in business and industry. Through it all, he showed compassion, he listened, and he put students first. He could be tough and a little gruff, but in a way that was constructive and helpful.
“He knew to make sure that you first understand what you’re there for, and then build around that to achieve success,” Buckless said.
This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.