NJCPA Ovation Awards honor superstars whose exemplary efforts and stellar achievements are advancing New Jersey’s accounting profession.
The annual Ovation Awards recognize the multitude of ways that individuals contribute significant time, energy and intellect to developing our profession and fostering its success. The awards celebrate the high achievers who are emerging leaders, innovators, champions of diversity, educators, volunteers, notable women and other individuals who have made a substantial impact in accounting.
Michael Polito, CPA
Mike has a long tradition with the NJCPA, having served as president for the 2001/02 term, on the Board of Trustees and as a chair of the Finance Committee, NJ Uniform Accountancy Bill Committee and Professional Conduct Committee. He has played an integral role in writing and teaching the NJCPA ethics course since inception in 2002. Mike has a scholarship awarded annually in his name because he helped raise more than $500,000 for the NJCPA Scholarship Fund.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION
Chief People Officer at Mazars USA LLP
Keri brings new meaning to inclusion. Recognizing a need to give voice and action to issues that matter, she formed the Mazars Inclusion & Diversity Council. She also serves as a Mazars professional mentor to veterans transitioning to civilian life, is a board member of Oasis-A Haven for Women and Children in Paterson and previously introduced a formal diversity and inclusion initiative at a national retailer/manufacturer.
Al-Nesha Jones, CPA, MBA
Partner and Founder at ASE Group
Living by example, Al-Nesha is passionate about increasing the number of sustainable small businesses in marginalized communities and the number of Black CPAs. Al-Nesha is a mentor with the National Society of Black CPAs, her high school and her alma mater, Montclair State University, including structured mentorships which lead to paid internships at her firm. She is also a participant in the ProConnect Customer Council for Intuit Inc.
Patrice Turner, CPA
Audit Professional at Deloitte
Whether through her national DEI efforts, involvement in local and national DEI recruiting, or her National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) board role, Patrice regularly focuses on DEI challenges and tactical solutions. She launched a cross-functional virtual happy hour for Black professionals and was a program manager for Deloitte’s Stride CPA readiness program that helps diverse students complete the CPA Exam.
Ryan Berdnik, CPA, CFP®
Senior Manager at Mazars USA LLP
Ryan actively promotes the accounting profession and helps future CPAs achieve their goals. For the past four years, he has driven the Mazars Thanksgiving food drive in part with the NJCPA Emerging Leaders Council. He has participated in various NJCPA career nights, the NJCPA scholarship interviewing process, and is a career coach and member of the We Are Mazars committee.
Joseph Breen, CPA, MBA
Tax Supervisor at WithumSmith+Brown
Joe has exhibited dedication, incredible work ethic and willingness to go above and beyond. As an Elijah Watt Sells Award winner, two-time NJCPA scholarship winner, a student with the highest GPA from Monmouth University Business School, the winner of the Withum Emerging Leader Award for 2020 and nominee for the Withum Strength of Client Service Award in 2021, Joe epitomizes an emerging leader.
Kyle Drost, CPA
VP, Finance and Treasury at Nefro Health
Kyle is always looking for ways to up his game and broaden his abilities. Because of his unique combination of a strong work ethic and an easy-going nature, Kyle is a frequently requested coach for those participating in Untracht Early’s internal mentoring program and looking for guidance on how to grow. He is also helping to lead the charge on a business development pilot program, where best practices are shared, case studies are discussed and progress is tracked.
Jay Guttmann, CPA
Partner at SRG Advisors, LLC
Jay inspires others at all levels. He has been active on the NJCPA Bergen Chapter board since 2018, was a director for the past three years and is a well-known voice on the Bergen Practitioners Forum. Jay is the lead partner at his firm for internship and first-year associate recruiting. He started the firm’s “SOS! Second Opinion Services,” a complimentary consultation program in which business and individuals can have their tax returns reviewed.
Joseph Hunt, CPA, PSA
Assurance Manager at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP
Joe is an advocate for the accounting profession and continuously reaches out to engage other young/emerging leaders. An active participant in the NJCPA since 2018, Joe was appointed to the Emerging Leaders Council and founded the NJCPA Book Club. He is also a member of the Finance Committee at The Salvation Army Morristown Chapter.
Karen Nici-Talarico, CPA
Director at Merck & Company
Karen led Merck’s internal audit group’s response to her company spinning off a new Fortune 500 company, which included the development of the overall audit approach and leading a team of 75 auditors. The former NJCPA scholarship recipient also set up an internal audit function for the new company, where she developed a comprehensive Sarbanes-Oxley audit program from the ground up.
William Smitheman, CPA
Audit Manager at Baratz & Associates, P.A.
Bill has been a leader since he joined his firm through an acquisition several years ago. In a short time, he has risen to audit manager and, in addition to achieving his CPA, recently earned his CFE, all while increasing his responsibilities at the firm to include staff training and being on the acquisition transition team. In his local community, Bill has had leadership roles in both the Evesham Education Foundation and the Marlton Business Association.
Christopher Stoop, CPA
Partner at EisnerAmper LLP
Dating back to 2006 when Chris first joined as a Student member, he has been actively engaged in the NJCPA. He was the Mercer Chapter president in 2016/17 and was elected to the NJCPA Board of Trustees in 2019/20. Chris is a strong supporter of encouraging the next generation of CPAs and is a frequent Career Awareness presenter at both the high school and college levels, particularly at his alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Rachel Suntag, CPA
Audit Senior at Deloitte
Rachel exudes leadership, promotes community within Deloitte and is the lead of its Junior Talent Council. She is passionate about the accounting profession, having been a featured speaker on Deloitte’s Greater Tri-State practice calls on talent and retention. She is active as a mentor and a teacher at work and serves as a mentor to NJCPA scholarship recipients.
Amy Lysak, CPA, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor at Rowan University
An innovative educator, Amy integrates technology tools into the fundamental understanding of auditing and accounting, earning her extremely favorable ratings from students. She is routinely sought out for career mentoring and advice. Her curriculum review regarding CPA Evolution served as a basis for launching the MS in Accounting program at Rowan. She previously worked at EY for 12 years.
Sarah O'Rourke, CPA
Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Rutgers Business School- New Brunswick
Sarah is dedicated to her students’ success and their pursuit of the CPA credential. In 2021, she received the RBS Excellence in Teaching award solely based on student voting. She creates and leads innovative programs in support of her students. She created a formal mentoring program at Rutgers connecting students with practitioners and launched its “Pathway to CPA” program.
Neil Becourtney, CPA
Tax Director at Smolin, Lupin & Co., LLC.
Neil’s contributions to the NJCPA and the tax community are well known. He chaired the NJCPA State Tax committee from 1998 to 2000 and has continued to make presentations on state tax developments at State Tax Interest Group meetings for more than 20 years. Even during the pandemic, he never missed a beat. He continues to assist the public through the NJCPA’s annual tax Q&A programs.
James Blake, CPA
Partner & Chief Operating Officer at Mazars USA LLP
James believes in giving back to the community. He has been a member of the NJCPA since 1993 and has been an active participant in the New Jersey CPA Political Action Committee (NJ-CPA-PAC) since 2010 and the Accounting & Auditing Standards Committee dating back to 2000. He has also served on the American Institute of CPAs’ Council and is a Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) board member.
Robbin Caruso, CPA, CGMA
Partner at Prager Metis CPAs, LLC
Robbin’s input is valued at the highest levels. She serves on the national IRS Liaison Committee for the American Academy of Attorney-CPAs and meets monthly with leaders at the IRS. During COVID, she became an expert on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and the tax changes enacted, educating both the firm and the public. She regularly gave talks on the topic for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) and other groups.
Nicole DeRosa, CPA, MAcc
Partner at Wiss & Company, LLP
As an incoming NJCPA Trustee and an outgoing chair of the Emerging Leaders Council, Nicole is an inspirational leader at the NJCPA and in the community. Nicole was an NJBIZ Accounting Power 50 award winner in 2020 and 2021, a 2019 NJCPA Woman to Watch award winner and a 2022 nominee for the American Institute of CPAs’ Most Powerful Women in Accounting.
Della Hammer, CPA, CGMA
Over the past 10 years and through the pandemic, her tireless work has strengthened the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey’s financial resources to grant wishes to more than 5,000 children with critical illnesses, which includes the iconic Wishing Place castle in Monroe Township. Her leadership roles at Chase, PHH and Metlife led her toward New Jersey nonprofit work and giving back to the community.
Brian Lawrence, CPA, MBA
CEO at Fellowship Senior Living
As CEO, Brian repositioned Fellowship Senior Living to become a premier provider of senior services in New Jersey. Formerly the CFO, Brian uses his expertise and knowledge as a CPA to have a pulse on operations, analyze trends and direct a fiscally responsible organization. Brian also guided the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Somerset Hills to be positioned for merger/acquisition and sits on the Finance and Property committees of the Millburn Board of Education.
Christopher Lovasz, CPA
Managing Director at Deloitte
Chris is a longtime NJCPA volunteer who is passionate about the success of students and future CPAs. He led the NJCPA Scholarship Fund through important changes to the program including the recent addition of the Sophomore and Minority scholarships. Chris is an NJCPA Trustee and has been active in the NJCPA Student Programs and Scholarship Committee since 2009.
Jerry Maginnis, CPA
Jerry is a powerful influencer of the next generation of CPAs. He is the author of Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession: How to Make Your Assets Greatly Exceed Your Liabilities. Jerry has been credited with elevating the accounting program at Rowan, leading its Accounting Advisory Board with distinction, connecting to students in impactful ways and being an inspiration to the Rutgers mentorship program.
Daniel Marques, CPA, MT
Partner at Armanino LLP
Dan is truly a role model. From March 2020 through August 2021, he wrote 23 blog posts chronicling each update to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) located at taxwarriors.com/covid-19-ppp. These blogs were collectively read by more than 110,000 unique readers across the U.S. And he did this while managing and growing his own book of business as a partner in the firm and teaching several CPE courses.
Alan Preis, CPA
Owner at Alan J. Preis, CPA, PC
Alan is a go-to source for New Jersey tax-related issues. He was voted an outstanding instructor by the American Institute of CPAs and a Distinguished Discussion Leader by the New York State Society of CPAs’ Foundation for Accounting Education. He is the co-author and instructor of a full-day course on New Jersey taxes presented annually for the NJCPA.
Ainsley Reynolds, DBA, MBA, CPA
Director of Accounting at State of New Jersey - Division of Investment
Ainsley has made his mark on many levels. He is currently serving his third term as president of the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy, most notably through the COVID-19 pandemic. He also heads the accounting department at the New Jersey Division of Investment, which manages the state’s $90 billion public worker pension fund. Ainsley has held top financial and accounting roles at many prominent companies, including Hilton, PwC and Deutsche Bank.
Michele Theuerkauf, CPA
Owner at Michele Theuerkauf, CPA LLC
As 2020/21 president of NJCPA Bergen Chapter, Michele quickly worked to steady the ship during the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver valuable programs to members as well as keep them engaged. She also volunteered to stay on as president for a second year and made it a priority to keep the Bergen Chapter connected and eventually back to having in-person seminars.
Edward Zollars, CPA
Tax and Technology Partner at Thomas Zollars & Lynch, Ltd.
Ed tirelessly guides and instructs New Jersey CPAs through the NJCPA’s Open Forum member community daily, providing insight into new and existing legislation, tax code references and real-world interpretations to challenging situations. His insight and direction are invaluable, as noted by the many messages of thanks that come through the forum.
Vincenzo Antinozzi, CPA
Audit Staff at WilkinGuttenplan
An innovative whiz when it comes to the audit process, Vincenzo uses technology and various data analyses to identify efficiencies and leverage tech effectiveness. He is a self-starter who identified the need and then executed on new technology implementation enthusiastically, and he continues this work for the benefit of his firm, clients and colleagues.
Daniel Geltrude, CPA, MST, PSA
Managing Partner at Geltrude & Company, LLC CPAs
Known as “America’s Accountant” for his media appearances, Dan goes beyond traditional means to explain accounting and give back. He crafted the best-selling Positive Financial Karma book combining karma and finance, developed the David Wright Day and Johnny Damon Day at John Walker Middle School in Nutley and created his own UNICO scholarships for Nutley students.
Shawn Henderson, CPA, MST
Partner at Citrin Cooperman & Company, LLP
Shawn has been instrumental in leveraging new technologies, such as tax flow software, to improve Citrin Cooperman’s tax department processes and procedures, and he has ensured adoption of new technologies through training, tracking and tenacity. Shawn has also helped improve the firm’s culture and inclusion by developing strategies to better integrate employees.
Christopher Massood, CPA
Senior Accountant at Massood & Company, P.A.
Christopher created Elephant CPA, an innovative, low-priced, cloud-based management tool that helps small to midsize accounting firms streamline their businesses and help with client management, time tracking, integrated invoicing, e-signature, electronic payment processing and securing documents. It also helps his own firm increase productivity. Christopher is the secretary of the NJCPA Passaic County Chapter.
Ryan Warnet, CPA
Data Analyst at SKC & Co. CPAs, LLC
Ryan is committed to driving change in the CPA profession. With Ryan’s commitment to learning and development, SKC began a data analytics focus group and engaged with Upstream Academy to formally create a data analytics service line that launched in 2021. Truly self-motivated, Ryan began researching data analytics by taking classes, working with a data scientist and diving deep into the data coming from Quick Books and various other software.
WOMAN TO WATCH
Danielle Abrahamsen, CPA
Controller at Commvault Systems, Inc.
Danielle is truly forging new ground. She is considered to be a valued partner to her clients as well as a point person who has the right knowledge of the business and knows what’s needed for clients. She has a knack for challenging specific information and successfully digesting concerns as well as providing thoughtful responses and specific examples/documents to satisfy clients’ requirements.
Paula Ferreira, CPA
Office Managing Partner at Mazars USA LLP
Paula is a recognized influencer in the profession — she is an office managing partner, the leader of the firm’s accounting and auditing practice in New Jersey and the vice chairperson of the NJ-CPA-PAC. As a proactive leader, mentor and trusted advisor, Paula works collaboratively with local community leaders in growing businesses throughout the state. She is also active in the NJCPA State and Federal Taxation interest groups.
Michelle Gasiorowski, CPA
Partner at Bowman & Company LLP
Michelle is committed to the advancement of women’s health and self-esteem. She is an active member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, where she was honored for her dedication. Michelle is also a board member and coach for Girls on the Run New Jersey and is a Southern New Jersey board member for the American Heart Association.
Courtney McLaughlin, CPA
Senior Tax Analyst at Johnson & Johnson
Courtney believes in giving back. At Johnson & Johnson, she is part of the Culture Team that helps bring awareness about different cultures. She is also part of the NJCPA Emerging Leader’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee and mentors CPA Exam candidates. In her previous job at Withum, she was active in its East Brunswick Emerging Leaders group, where she organized volunteer opportunities and was an official mentor.
Lori Roth, CPA, ABV/CFF
National Managing Partner at Prager Metis CPAs, LLC
Lori is not only personally successful, but she is a caring mentor who genuinely wants every team member to succeed. She maintains a work environment that is flexible, transparent and diverse. She is committed to the highest standards of excellence and client service. She was voted one of the Crains NY Notable Women in Accounting in 2021 and made the ROI-NJ Influencers: Power List for 2021.
Jenna Sanfilippo, CPA
Senior at WilkinGuttenplan
Jenna is the whole package, with her dedication to WilkinGuttenplan, the accounting profession and her own personal growth. She is committed to excellence within her team as well as the profession. She brings a lot of energy to her volunteer activities at the NJCPA, which includes being a scholarship interviewer and mentor, an Emerging Leaders Council advocate and helping with the NJCPA Food Drive.
Caitlin Smith, CPA
Partner at SKC & Co. CPAs, LLC
A true role model for female CPAs, Caitlin has developed systems and processes specifically for her healthcare clients that have made a major, positive business impact. Because of her level of knowledge and deep understanding, Caitlin now leads the practice area and is actively growing the firm’s client base. Caitlin takes the time to really listen — not only to her clients — but to her staff as well.
Valerie Thorpe, CPA
Manager at WilkinGuttenplan
Val is the consummate working parent, a highly technical leader and staff developer. She is a great teacher of young staff — patient, thorough, empathetic and always has a smile. She identifies problems but also brings solutions. She leads various affinity groups for working and new parents and started the firm’s Women’s Group and New Parents Group.
NJCPA award recipients: