The Professor Is In: Vince Barrella
Pace alumnus and Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Taxation Vince Barrella '73 is a proud Pace Setter through and through.
Since stepping onto campus as an accounting major in 1969, Vince Barrella has had a tremendous journey at Pace, going from a student, to a professor, to faculty council chair, to his current roles as a professor of legal studies and taxation and department chairperson at the Lubin School of Business. From meeting his wife Barbara in the cafeteria (Barrella notes that in his day, the Bianco Room was simply called the "snack bar") to currently working in an office steps from where he graduated on the roof of One Pace Plaza, Barrella has stories and experiences for Setters young and old to learn from, including the importance of having fun and sharing a laugh, fulfilling childhood dreams, and loving your alma mater.
Q: What was one thing or person that made you passionate about your current career?
A: It’s hard to come up with what made me passionate about being a tax attorney—that was more pragmatic. I was in high school in the ‘60s and I really wanted to be a political science major. But I thought, if I got a degree in political science and I didn’t get into law school—which was always my intention—then what would I do? I came to the conclusion that I might end up driving a cab and I didn’t want to do that. So my older cousin was working for the IRS and he had gone to Pace and was an accounting major. I thought if I majored in accounting, I should be able to get a job and still go to law school. It was all about having a job and financial security.
Now for how I got into the current phase of my career—teaching. I was litigating cases for the IRS and in part, I wanted to go out and start my own practice, and teaching was a way of helping me do that. As far as my passion for teaching, I really do love doing it. It’s been 30-some odd years now. Two previous Pace professors that I had as a student inspired me to teach. One was Ivan Fox, who was a business law professor and quite the legend—he authored the Pace alma mater. I am now the chair of the department that he was chair of, so it has come full circle. The other gentleman was Jordan Young, a history professor, who was fantastic and made you want to go to class and see what he’d do next. I tried to pattern myself after them.
Q: What quality do you most value in your students?
A: The ability to take what you’re doing seriously but not take yourself seriously. In other words, go out, put the effort in, and do the work, but don’t let it consume you.
Q: What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
A: Have fun and enjoy it! Don’t let it become such a burden that it’s no longer fun. If you’re not having fun learning what you are studying, then that’s maybe telling you that path is not for you. If you are not enjoying studying it, how do you expect to be good at it or have fun with it when you are in that career? You have to enjoy the experience.
Q: If you had to do it all over again and take another path, what profession would you choose?
A: What I would’ve liked to have done is follow my original plan, which would have been majoring in political science. I don’t know what I would’ve done with it, but I do know I am very lucky. From 2008 to 2015, I was mayor of Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey, so I actually got the chance to do both. I fulfilled my childhood dreams while still having a grown-up job. I always found it fascinating—I always found politics and history fascinating and much more interesting than being a tax attorney.
Q: What is your favorite word? Least favorite word?
A: My favorite word is “yes” and least favorite word is “no.” There are places where no is an appropriate word, but generally it conveys something more negative, where yes conveys more of a positive feeling.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure TV show or mobile app?
A: Over the years teaching usually at night, I never really had the chance to develop any real affinity for any television show. If there’s anything that would fit that category it would probably be broadcasting the Yankees games. I’m a big Yankees fan and baseball is my favorite sport.
Q: What was your favorite class as a student? Least favorite?
A: There were a lot of classes I enjoyed, but probably law with Ivan Fox and history with Jordan Young were my favorites here at Pace. Given that I was from Brooklyn and English was my second language, I was never really thrilled with English classes.
Q: What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?
A: Sleep because there is not enough time in the day for me to sleep enough. Sleep is a good thing and students should learn to sleep more.
Q: What is your favorite professional or personal journey/experience?
A: Going from being a 17-year-old freshman at Pace in 1969, to being a 64-year-old chair of legal studies and taxation here at Pace. My office right now is no more than 50 feet from where I stood when I graduated, because we graduated on the roof back then. The nearly 50 years from going from my first accounting class as a freshman to where I am now is my favorite.
Q: What is your favorite saying?
A: I have one that I really like and also hate at the same time which is, “It is what it is.” I hate it because it essentially brings up a connotation of resignation and defeat, but it is also sometimes very important to understand what you can do and what you can’t do—that you can’t change everything.
Q: If you could have any five people living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
A: John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Jesus Christ, and Winston Churchill.
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