NJCPA Ovation Awards honor superstars whose exemplary efforts and stellar achievements are advancing New Jersey’s accounting profession.

The awards were distributed in seven categories: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Exceptional Educators; Emerging Leaders; Impact; Innovation; Lifetime Leader; and Women to Watch. Congratulations to our 2019 award recipients:


Honoring the champions of diversity, equity and inclusion who work passionately to make the accounting and finance profession open, welcoming and fair to encourage and promote initiatives and change, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, disability status or other dimension of diversity.

Sandra S. Emmert, CPA

Financial Controller, Samuels Inc.

Having overcome several obstacles to becoming a CPA, Sandra is a role model for prospective accountants and CPAs. She works tirelessly to help her customers understand their financial statements and bookkeeping. As the only female in management, Sandra has helped the company restructure office procedures and helped open two new store locations.

Evelyn A. McDowell, CPA, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Rider University

Evelyn serves as faculty liaison to Rider’s Aspiring Accounting Professional Program, which helps address diversity in accounting. She also is president and founding board member of the Sons & Daughters of the United States Middle Passage, a lineage society dedicated to preserving the memory and history of the artifacts and landmarks of slavery.


Recognizing full-time college accounting educators who distinguish themselves with their excellence in teaching and prominence in state-wide or regional activity to actively encourage careers in accounting and by serving as role models in academia.

John F. Boyle, CPA, MBA

Assistant Professor of Business Studies, Stockton University

Known for his charismatic teaching style, John assists students both inside and outside the classroom. Described by students as a “walking encyclopedia of knowledge,” John actively encourages students to consider accounting careers. He created a workshop on tax law updates and routinely brings real-world examples into the classroom.

Jeffrey Christakos, CPA/PFS, MBA, CFP 

Chair, Accounting Dept., Monmouth University

As a college professor, Jeff encourages students to be their best and works to continually make improvements to the school’s accounting program. He created a Financial Planning Club and started the school on the path to having a Certified Financial Planning Board-approved program. He was selected to be the first non-Ph.D. department chair in recent history of the Leon Hess Business School.

Joseph A. Lizza, CPA

Assistant Professor, Felician Universityi

Joseph’s passion for teaching, love for the craft and knowledge base are unmatched. He prioritizes his students in the classroom and in gaining real-world experiences. Joseph is an IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program site coordinator. He has won several awards, including Teacher of the Year from Rutgers and the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence from Fordham.

Barry R. Palatnik, CPA, Ph.D., MBA

Assistant Professor of Accounting, Stockton University

Barry has proven how valuable he is to his students and the NJCPA. Both in and out of the classroom, he has tremendous impact on his students. As part of his commitment to continuously provide exposure to different accounting careers, he created a day-long simulation of a mock criminal investigation for Stockton students.

Raymond C. Rigoli, CPA

Chair, Accounting Department, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Awarded Posthumously 

For more than 35 years, Ray was a role model for New Jersey accounting professionals, professors and students alike. He initiated the accounting internship program and co-developed the accounting curriculum at the school. His contributions to students, professors and New Jersey educational institutions will be felt for many years to come.


Recognizing savvy superstars who have been working in the accounting profession 10 years or less and have had noteworthy professional accomplishments; combined personal and professional achievements that merit special recognition; and/or actively participated in the advancement of the profession or NJCPA.

Jose M. Borbon, CPA

Assistant Vice President, Senior Auditor, Kearny Bank

Jose leads by example in the community and in his bank. In partnership with his alma mater, Passaic County Technical Institute, he volunteers his time to talk with students about career opportunities in accounting and community banking. As one of the youngest officers at his bank, he works closely with management in implementing the new CECL accounting standard as well as enhancing his assigned audits.

Zachary B. Cohen, CPA

Senior Auditor, Prudential Financial Inc.

Working together with fellow NJCPA member Melissa A. Dardani, CPA, Zach helped direct a four-part action plan for the NJCPA Board of Trustees to better understand the burdens of student loan debt. Along with Melissa, he is drafting guidance for New Jersey State Assemblyman Gary Schaer for student loan legislation and to create online financial literacy.

John C. Dispenziere Jr., CPA

Audit Manager, Deloitte 

Changing student perceptions about accounting and inspiring the next generation has been a passion of John’s. For the past six years, John has been an NJCPA Career Awareness Program presenter at multiple New Jersey high schools and has encouraged many students to pursue an accounting education.

Joseph H. Doerrer, CPA, PFS, CFP

Senior Tax Associate, Bessemer Trust Company, N.A.

Joe has become a trusted resource at his firm, where his knowledge of taxation and financial planning make him a great asset. He was a 2018 winner of the AICPA Standing Ovation Award in the area of personal financial planning and was a 2018 Wolters Kluwer/CCH Emerging Leader honoree.

Jeremy I. Kaye, CPA

Audit Senior, Deloitte

In his four years at the firm, Jeremy has been a star performer. He is a member of the Deloitte New Jersey Junior Talent Counsel and was a founding member of the firm’s NextGen marketplace. Outside of the firm, he is the founder of the Young Professional Advisory Committee to the Board of Trustees at Cancer Hope Network.

Megan T. Kelly, CPA, CFE

Manager, SobelCo

Megan is, simply put, a leader. Others routinely turn to her for advice, guidance and good counsel. At Sobel, she manages some of their most sophisticated cases and works independently on the engagements. At NJCPA, she serves on the Content Advisory Board and was a 2018 Volunteer Award recipient.

Shaun F. Maloney, CPA, ABV, CFF, CGMA, CFA

Director, EisnerAmper LLP

Recognizing Shaun’s unique combination of technical knowledge, leadership skills and core values, EisnerAmper made him the youngest director in its Forensic, Litigation & Valuation Services practice. He is the chair of the NJCPA’s Forensic & Valuation Services Interest Group and won a Standing Ovation Award from the AICPA.

Michael J. Massood, CPA

Partner, Massood & Company, P.A.

Described as having a willingness to volunteer at the drop of a hat, Mike has earned the title of emerging leader. He actively works to bring in new NJCPA members and has successfully run functions in order to attract others to the organization. He has held various leadership roles at the Passaic County Chapter and is currently the chapter’s president.

Keri L. Mullin, CPA, MBA

Senior Accountant, WilkinGuttenplan

From recruiting to presenting at universities, Keri is committed to assisting the next generation of accounting professionals. She led the initiative for the Young Professionals Networking and the Real Estate Next Generation groups at WilkinGuttenplan. Keri is passionate about speaking publicly about the CPA profession.


Recognizing those who dedicate meaningful time and energy to any of the following commendable endeavors: giving back to the community; sharing professional expertise to support others; or advancing the interests and needs of the accounting profession through active engagement, leadership or advocacy.

Karen A. Artasanchez, CPA

Shareholder, WilkinGuttenplan

Karen is an inspirational leader at her firm, having the ability to connect with all levels. She has also been invaluable in her role on the NJCPA State Taxation Task Force and has provided recommendations for various legislative initiatives, including helping to review and draft the pass-through entity bill proposed by Alan Sobel.

Joseph A. Baldomero Jr., CPA

Shareholder, SuarezBaldomero, PA

Joseph has been appointed to a five-year term on the Board of Trustees of the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Fund of the Bar of New Jersey, which awards grants to fund free legal services to low-income people. He also has almost 40 years of service to the NJCPA and is a past president of the Hudson Chapter.

Daniel Barbera, CPA, MBA, CGMA

CFO, Lydia Security Monitoring, Inc.

In the literal sense of the award, Dan has made a huge impact on Stockton University accounting students. Last year, Dan financially supported 10 Stockton students to attend the NJCPA Annual Convention & Expo — a move that forever changed the lives and careers of these students.

Melissa A. Dardani, CPA

Senior, EisnerAmper LLP

From cannabis to forensics and helping accounting students, Melissa makes a considerable contribution to the profession. She has been instrumental in drafting a position paper for NJCPA on tax-related changes needed for cannabis legislation and testified in Trenton. She also helped lead a team at the NJCPA to draft position papers on legislation to provide relief for student debt.

Michael H. Karu, CPA, CFF, CGMA

Member, Levine, Jacobs & Company, LLC

Michael led Levine, Jacobs & Company from a firm of eight and a gross of under $1 million to a total of 27 employees and a gross of over $5 million. He is also civic-minded, having served as a board member on the New Jersey Ballet Company and was a trustee, officer and audit chairman of Oheb Shalom Congregation. He is also an active member of the Rotary Club of West Orange.

Anthony C. Plakis Jr., CPA

Senior Accountant, Centric District Mgr, ADP

Tony has advocated for joining the NJCPA for more than 30 years. He continues to dedicate himself to growing the Society’s Southwest Jersey Chapter, where he is the treasurer. Tony actively works to set up seminars and helps members achieve their CPE credits.

Carl Specht, CPA, CGMA

Managing Member, Constantino, Specht, Templeton & Co., LLC

Carl has touched the lives of many NJCPA Hudson Chapter members. Described as someone who is willing to help in every way, Carl has held various positions in the chapter, including president, and is currently a director. He is a member of the NJCPA Student Programs & Scholarships Committee, Federal Taxation Interest Group and State Taxation Interest Group, among others.

Michael A. Stillitano, CPA

SVP-Business Administration and Finance, CFO Region North America, Hapag-Lloyd

Mike has a long-standing commitment to the NJCPA and was a 2016 recipient of its Distinguished Service Medallion. He has been an active member of the Monmouth/Ocean Chapter, having served on the board and as treasurer, secretary, vice president and president. He currently leads a team of 110, responsible for treasury, finance, accounting and tax.

Julie Strohlein, CPA

Associate Partner, Alloy Silverstein Accountants & Advisors

Julie routinely gives back to the community around her. She is a member of the local board of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey and has served as a mentor for Women United and Girls Today Leaders Tomorrow programs. She is also a frequent presenter at her firm’s academy workshops.  


Honoring those who are transforming accounting at lightning speed: driving innovation of all kinds, as it relates to accounting — leveraging new technologies, using forward-thinking data analytics strategies, implementing alternative business models or rolling out experimental engagement strategies to improve employee culture.

James C. Bourke Jr., CPA/CITP, CFF, CGMA

Managing Director, Advisory Services, Withum

Jim is recognized for his significant advances in the technological and digital space. In 2019, he won the Digi-Tech Innovator Award by NJBIZ for enhancing overall productivity and performance at his firm. Jim has been an invaluable member of the NJCPA since 1988, having been a past president and a former Monmouth/Ocean Chapter president.

Mathew Langenberger, CPA

Tax Accountant, WilkinGuttenplan

Having developed a deep skillset in Excel and data manipulation, Mat embraces technology as a tool to create efficiency and consistency. He is an active member of the firm’s Innovation Council and promotes change and innovation throughout the office. He applies his skills to numerous projects, such as an authorization form/note generator and tax and time tracking worksheets.

Joseph A. McGrath Jr., CPA

Audit Senior Manager, Deloitte

Joe’s commitment to helping others is unparalleled. He has brought new meaning to what a mentor should be by raising the bar on creating new ways to engage, from meeting students in person when home from school breaks to helping them secure employment.

Sean D. Stein Smith, CPA, Ph.D., DBA, CMA, CGMA, CFE

Assistant Professor, Lehman College

As the newly appointed leader of the NJCPA Emerging Technologies Interest Group, Sean recognizes the importance of focusing on blockchain and other emerging technology platforms. He has helped shape content for the NJCPA and educate members and the general public about blockchain and cryptocurrency applications for accounting and finance.


Celebrating the standout NJCPA member of exceptional merit for remarkable contributions to the accounting profession over the course of their career.  

Howard J. Bookbinder, CPA

Owner, Howard J. Bookbinder, CPA

Few people embody what it means to be a CPA more than Howard. Always willing to help, explain tax issues or lend an ear, Howard is an integral part of the NJCPA and the Bergen Chapter. He has been an invaluable liaison to the IRS and authored Bergen Record’s Tax Mailbag column as well as his own books.


Applauding the growth and success of female NJCPA members for their leadership, potential, contributions and/or commitment to fostering the success of their colleagues.

Regina C. Balagtas, CPA

Senior, Citrin Cooperman & Company, LLP

As a rising superstar at Citrin Cooperman, Regina forges beyond the scope of assigned work to deepen her industry expertise. Specializing in audit services, Regina has been described as a “consummate professional.” She is actively involved in NJCPA’s Mentor Program, where she is focused on cultivating the talent that will support the future of the profession.  

Nicole M. DeRosa, CPA

Tax Manager, Withum

Since being an NJCPA Scholarship winner in 2008, Nicole’s contribution to the accounting profession has been extensive. She was an NJCPA “30 Under 30” award winner in 2015, is the vice chair of the Emerging Leaders Council and is on the Content Advisory Board. In addition, she was an adjunct professor at Raritan Valley Community College and is a frequent speaker on tax.

Andrea Diaz, CPA, ABV, MST

Manager, SKC & Co. CPAs LLC 

Andrea continually inspires her staff, clients, coworkers and those in the community. She serves on the executive committee of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business program and was selected as the accounting/tax expert for their “Ask the Expert” panel. Andrea was also recognized as an “Outstanding Coach” for the Girls on the Run charity program.

Kerry M. Duda, CPA

Senior Staff Auditor, WilkinGuttenplan

Kerry has a drive to excel — both inside and outside of the firm. This past year, she stepped into the role of being the primary go-to HUD person at her firm, and she previously started the Women in Business Group. At the NJCPA, she is a student mentor and Technology Chair of the Bergen Chapter.  

Danielle Dvorak, CPA

Senior Tax Manager, Friedman LLP

As a member of the NJCPA’s Emerging Leaders Council, member of the Strategic Planning Committee and director of the Bergen Chapter, Danielle is truly dedicated to the NJCPA and the accounting profession. She also gives back through volunteering at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) project, Habitat for Humanity, Community Food Bank and others.

Deirdre Hartmann, CPA

Partner, Nisivoccia LLP

Deirdre recognized healthcare as a huge business opportunity and successfully built the healthcare segment at her firm from the ground up and. In 2018, she brought new business into the firm by acknowledging the need for outsourced accounting services. She is a frequent lecturer on tax business efficiency, revenue cycle analysis and analyzing physician contracts.

Vanessa Munoz, CPA

Audit Supervisor, Wiss & Company, LLP

Vanessa possesses leadership qualities at Wiss and in the community. She is active in the Wiss Women’s Leadership Form, where she promotes and encourages the advancement of women within the firm. She is also on the board of Mrs. Wilson’s House, a nonprofit that assists women in recovery from substance abuse.

Andrea Nodoro, CPA

Individual Tax Principal, Untracht Early LLC

In addition to her fast rise to leadership at her firm, Andrea served for several years as treasurer of the NJCPA Morris/Sussex Chapter. She gives back to the community through her participation on the Advisory Council for Dress for Success Morris County, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women.

Audrey J. Sherrick, CPA

Partner, Friedman LLP

In a career spanning more than four decades, Audrey has established herself as an indispensable resource to clients. She has shown a great commitment to the NJCPA, having served as a member of the Board of Trustees, chair of the NJCPA Audit Committee, past president of the Atlantic/Cape May Chapter and a member of the chapter’s scholarship committee.

June M. Toth, CPA

Managing Member, ZBT Certified Public Accounting & Consulting, LLC

June has become a resource for many NJCPA members, who consider her a sounding board on topics from accounting to overall life decision-making. Her involvement in various NJCPA committees and groups, and her ability to encourage others to be involved (and have fun while doing it), is a quality that everyone should aspire to have.

View our previous award recipients: