Glenn Carrington ’80 recently turned from a high-profile career in tax law to leading the Norfolk State University School of Business, returning to his roots to give back to the community.
Carrington spent much of his career with major accounting firms, including Arthur Andersen, where he served as the managing partner of Andersen’s National Tax Office, and Ernst & Young, where he served on the executive board. He also served at the IRS as assistant chief counsel (income tax and accounting) and as branch chief in the office of the assistant chief counsel (corporate).
In 2017 he took on his new role as dean of NSU’s business school, where he had earned a business degree before studying law at UVA.
Carrington is a two-time recipient of the Tax Excellence Award given by the National Bar Association’s Tax Section, is the principal author of the treatise “Tax Accounting in Mergers and Acquisitions,” and has served as an adjunct professor in the Graduate Tax Program at Georgetown University Law Center.
Carrington shared how he cultivated his work ethic and how UVA set him up for success, the importance of diversity in the workplace and his advice for young lawyers going into business.
You were a businessman of sorts from a young age. Can you tell us more, and what lessons you learned?
At a very young age, I wanted to earn money to assist my family. There were many things I wanted my family and me to have that we could not afford. For example, I do not ever recall having new clothes unless I purchased them myself. Most of my life, I inherited the clothes of my three older brothers, and the shoes I would get from them would always have multiple footprints. I wanted us to have more than hand-me-downs, so I got a job at a very early age. I was just in the fourth grade when I started working. By the eighth grade, I’d made enough money to buy my brother, who was often quite sick, his first car. By the ninth grade, I had made enough to pay for another brother’s first year of college. I also routinely purchased my older sister’s homecoming outfits while she was in college.
In my early years, I often picked jobs that were challenging. I was an after-school janitor in my first job. I also cut grass and painted on the weekends for several years. By the ninth grade, I was working as a jackhammer expert for 10 hours a day during the summer, and I wanted to quit multiple times. I did not, however, because I was working for a purpose: to relieve my parents of the burden of providing for six children and to make my mother proud. I learned from all the jobs that work is never too challenging when you are working for an important purpose.
After working in both the public and private sectors, why academia?
I have worked in the public sector, private sector and now in academia. I am very passionate about my position as dean of the Business School at Norfolk State University, where I obtained my business degree. Once again, I am working for a purpose: to pay it forward. I have a unique background and many experiences to share with the students at NSU; I gained so much from attending NSU and UVA. Each educational institution serves vastly different populations, and my experiences at both schools instilled in me a passion for working with and learning from people of various backgrounds. I firmly believe that for any business or organization to be the best, its leaders must commit to supporting diversity. As a result, I take great pleasure in preparing NSU students for open-minded collaborations and the sharing of ideas in the workplace.
Throughout my 37-year career, I can recall a number of occasions when a better solution was developed for a client or organization because of the diversity of backgrounds and views that played a part in its formulation. Such synergies only occur when leaders acknowledge and promote the value of differing perspectives and opinions. Therefore, I truly hope to inspire students to develop this value and put it to use throughout their careers.
How did your UVA Law education prepare you for your deanship?
UVA did a great job of preparing me to be a highly effective dean. The Law School provided me with a first-rate education, which opened many doors for me. I benefited from working with highly productive and effective teams that were composed of individuals from different educational and social backgrounds. Looking back on my experience, I think of people like Professor Samuel Thompson, who taught me multiple tax courses at UVA, allowed me to assist him with his treatise on taxation, and recommended me to be hired by the U.S. Treasury Department in its Honors Program upon graduating from Law School. The time he spent coaching me and preparing me for the real world was invaluable. I am also thankful to have met Scott Michel ’80 in Law School. He’s been a big supporter of mine over the years and recruited me to Caplin & Drysdale law firm. It was there where I met two of my most trusted advisers: Stuart Brown, then a partner at Caplin & Drysdale, and Andre Fogarasi, then the former managing director of the National Tax Office at Arthur Andersen and a close friend of Herb Beller, who also was a partner at Caplin & Drysdale and assisted my development. Andre, Stuart and Sam Thompson have mentored me for most of my professional career, provided me with invaluable constructive feedback and helped me experience the power of having a diverse team.
Workplace teams are similar in many respects to sport teams. In both cases, you need people with different skills if you want to be the best. I am not sure my professional career would have been the same had these three people and Mark Weinberger, the former CEO of Ernst & Young, had not assisted me. Mark appreciated my diverse viewpoints and recruited me to come to E&Y, where I served on the U.S. executive board for almost a decade and authored with assistance the reference treatise, “Tax Accounting in Mergers and Acquisitions.” Ultimately, UVA provided me with a great education, as well as a platform to build great relationships with some awesome people who influenced my career tremendously simply because they were willing to listen to my views and recognize my contributions. Without such a platform, I am not sure I’d be where I am today.
What have been some of your achievements at NSU, and what are some of your goals going forward?
My vision is for the School of Business to be recognized as one of the top schools in the state of Virginia that prepares graduates to be “First-Day Ready” for new job opportunities. “First-Day Ready” refers to the idea that new employees are able to hit the ground running — that is, they are able to solve problem and are agile enough to transition between various areas without a lot of additional training. Given the speed of automation, companies are now looking for employees who have subject-matter knowledge in multiple areas. We intend to ensure that our students can meet this requirement, and we are making great progress.
In addition to subject-matter knowledge, there are multiple skill sets that a graduate must master — in particular, the following: communication skills, interpersonal skills, information technology (IT) skills, and analytical skills coupled with relevant internships.
Maintaining a curriculum that has industry input will be necessary to enable a student to be first-day ready. Such input should result in a student having the necessary IT skills (like data analytics, data visualization, process automation, etc.) to be efficient. Without these skills, graduates are less likely to be assigned the types of projects that will lead to success in the work place.
To me, the base is just education. Interpersonal skills and IT skills are on top of the base. Because automation is kicking in at so many organizations, especially the big accounting firms, in order to retain one’s job, one must have strong IT skills to be agile enough to move to the next job within the organization. Also because of automation, there’s going to be fewer and fewer employees, and thus interpersonal skills will come into play even more.
What advice do you have for young lawyers going into business?
I’d advise young lawyers who are going into business to learn as much as they can while in school and to couple that learning with real-life scenarios as soon as possible. This is the only way to quickly determine what an individual likes and doesn’t like. Real-world experiences are often completely different from those in the book world, so to speak. In the real world, people succeed because of their knowledge, expertise and passion. Individuals who lack passion for their work will find themselves performing at less than 100 percent. The passionate individual will work harder and fare better in the workplace than those who lack passion.
I’d also encourage them to be a lifetime learner and to develop great relationships with generous, trustworthy, and talented friends and colleagues. No problem is too hard when talented, open-minded individuals work together to tackle and solve it. Not only will they increase the likelihood of creating an innovative solution, they will have fun solving a problem in the process.
Finally, I’d tell them to live by the three Ps: Have patience, develop perseverance and stay professional in your conduct. Remember, no one is perfect, and neither are you!
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.