By Alek Kaculini, Business Management ’20
What does it take for a professor to be good? Certainly hard work and dedication. What does it take for a professor to be great, then?
Everyone has a different answer, but for me great professors will teach life lessons along with whatever their class is about. I noticed this especially during my first day of class at BMCC when I met my first US professor ever, Professor Frank Navas.
This is where it began…
I had signed up for Prof. Navas’s Accounting Principles I (ACC 122) class. I was expecting to jump right into the numbers on the first day, but what I got was a rather non-traditional presentation of himself. He started with his personal story:
He is a member of the first graduating class of BMCC in 1966. In those years, college was reserved for the rich and the pale-skinned. As a boy from a Latino community, he didn’t see himself fitting in there.
But, his college counselor encouraged him to take a chance and apply to a new community college opening in Manhattan, since his other choice would have been enrolling in the army and fighting in the Vietnam War. He applied, got accepted, and majored in Accounting.
After graduating in 1966 he became a tutor in the Accounting Department. Then, he transferred to Baruch for Accounting once more, and eventually ended up teaching at BMCC, giving back to his students what BMCC gave him — a chance at a rewarding life.
He had brought with him pictures of his past years, letters from students, poems written by students, and jokes he would tell to us as a class to distress us from a rather stressful Accounting class. He would start a story and become emotional and this would really make us feel part of the story, and connect with him on a deeper level than just debits and credits.
He’s tough, but worth it.
After that first day, the real work began! His classes were made of three-and-a-half hours straight up with no breaks, and his exams were even stricter.
Although not young anymore he still shouted the accounting formulas at us in class. He used to say that those formulas shouted at us should penetrate our brains much better than anything else. “Return on Assets is Net Income over Average Total Assets!!!” See? It worked. I still remember.
Going above and beyond.
After two semesters of Accounting with him, one day I asked professor Navas about an urgent matter, I desperately needed a recommendation letter that was due the same day. He canceled all his appointments and delayed his dinner, staying over his designated time just to write me that recommendation letter.
And I know that it took him a lot of time, because he wrote it by hand! Looking at this 74 years old man doing such a thoughtful thing for me only added to my already great admiration for him.
Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Professor Navas, after 56 years of teaching, decided to retire. I still certainly keep my correspondence with him and send him emails from time to time to make sure he is doing well.
BMCC is all about community, helping one another succeed, and bestowing life values to everyone along with the right to a college education, while keeping everyone engaged in the subject matter. Professor Navas was the embodiment of these values. He was strict, but also incredibly knowledgeable.
Inside him lies a golden heart, and, for those who are willing to listen and learn from him, he will be their greatest supporter and friend.
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