For Gary Bulmash, ’66, MBA ’68, DBA ’74, being in the right place at the right time was the catalyst of his decades-long teaching career.
The Maryland Smith professor, who began teaching at the school in the late 1960s while studying in the doctoral program, got his start when a faculty member was hospitalized and sidelined for an entire semester. Bulmash knew he had found his calling.
“I ended up teaching two sections of Accounting 1 at the last minute and loved it,” says Bulmash, a clinical professor of accounting and information assurance at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Life is all about timing. I hadn’t planned on teaching but I, fortunately, happened to fall into something that I ended up loving.”
In 1973, Bulmash left Maryland to write CPA exam questions for the American Institute of CPAs for two years while simultaneously completing his doctorate. He subsequently was offered a teaching position at American University in the fall of 1975, where he remained for 30 years until his return to Maryland Smith in 2005.
When he began teaching, Bulmash says, he wasn’t much older than his students. Now, he runs into former students and is surprised to learn they’ve already retired. He says his current students keep him young and inspire him to continue teaching, but he also jokes that he wouldn’t be surprised if a student told him he’d once taught their grandparent.
“My wife always says that I think and feel like I’m 19, and I think the same because I interact well with students,” says Bulmash. “But what happens is, as you get older and the students stay the same age, the age difference creeps up on you.”
It is gratifying to hear a student say a class was entertaining or enjoyable, he says, but nothing compares to knowing his students are equipped with the knowledge to lead successful lives.
“I try to talk about what I consider to be life lessons,” says Bulmash. “Things like talking to clients, dealing with supervisors and many other things that you normally don’t discuss in college. Over the years I’ve had many students say thank you for these lessons.”
Bulmash appreciates when his students remember him after many years or reach out on their own accord – a sign, he says, of a lifelong connection and relationship that extends beyond the classroom. Building those connections with students is what he has greatly missed in the transition to online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I really hope we’re at least back in the classroom in the spring,” says Bulmash. “I’d like to be standing in front of students and seeing their faces. Most of us miss it; it’s why we love teaching.”
Bulmash says he might never retire for good, but spring 2021 semester will be his last in the classroom. He says there is nothing he hasn’t done that he has wanted to do, and he feels fortunate to have enjoyed a professional career that he loves.
He sometimes thinks about how different his life would have been had he not gone to graduate school and stepped in to teach those accounting courses. He says there were three reasons why he went back to school. He always wanted to get an MBA; many of his peers were doing the same, and a third reason that still hits close to home.
“I didn’t feel quite ready to leave college,” Bulmash says.
“I hear it all the time from my own students and I get it, because I felt it back then and I know I always will.”
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.