By PAULETTE PARKER
Washtenaw Community College board treasurer, Pam Horiszny, is a self-described “work hard-play hard” type of person. She plays hard while staying physically active, enjoying golfing, biking, rollerblading, working out and working in her yard. She works hard as chief financial officer of the Ann Arbor YMCA, and committing to her role as a WCC trustee.
However, Horiszny’s extensive career in finances is not the path down which she originally started.
Growing up in Lansing, she attended Michigan State University where she earned an undergraduate degree in social science with a minor in political science. She also held a teaching certification and a desire to teach high school.
After graduation, she moved to Cleveland, where she was a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters. She decided to work on a Master of Education degree while she was home. The master’s program changed the course of her life.
She took a philosophy of education course and was the only student in the class not actively teaching. She recalls a 20-page paper she had to write.
“I read 10 books and wrote the paper and got an A. I didn’t really feel like I knew really any more about what my philosophy of education was because I didn’t have any practical experience,” Horiszny said. “All the other people in the class were currently teaching, so they probably sat down in one night and wrote their paper. They were very comfortable in the class and had a lot to add.”
The next series in the master’s program was a statistics course.
“We got in there and I’m loving it,” she said. “I hadn’t had any statistics for decades. And (the other students) were dying. Just panicked; couldn’t do it.” Horiszny had the realization that she might have been pursuing the wrong field in going into education. She then took an accounting course.
“Accounting’s the kind of thing, either you get it or you don’t. You get an A or you get a C,” she said. Horiszny set out to work on a Master of Business Administration to become a certified public accountant. She and her family moved back to Michigan where she enrolled at Eastern Michigan University. Once there, she learned that she didn’t need a master’s degree to become a CPA.
She took the courses required to take the CPA exam.
“They even got me an internship with a firm here in Ann Arbor, and I was off and running,” she said. “So I’m indebted to Eastern for what they did for me professionally.” After working in public accounting for 23 years, including having her own firm for 10 years, Horiszny became the executive director of the Red Cross of Washtenaw County for four years.
“There again was a big change because when I was in public accounting I did a lot of non profit audits and I served on a lot of non profit boards, so that became my passion,” she said. “I wanted to go into the non profit arena when I was done with public accounting. So that’s what I did.”
After the Red Cross, she moved on to the YMCA, where she is today. Cathy Duchon, chief executive officer of the Ann Arbor YMCA, knew Horiszny when she was an accountant, and enjoys working with her now.
“First of all, she’s incredibly smart. She also very thorough and she’s always looking for ways to make us better,” Duchon said. “And she’s a really good teacher.” Horiszny gladly shares her experience to help people better understand the financial aspects of their professions.
“I love having the knowledge that I can help people and I can add value to an organization,” she said.
“She’s very engaging and friendly and she’s fun,” Duchon said. “We have a very good time as a staff team.” Horiszny also feels like her experience well-equipped her to be an asset to the WCC board of trustees.
“I enjoy being able to share the knowledge that I have, the experience that I have and to try and help other people to understand it,” she said. “I think that’s been the most satisfying part of my role as a trustee, is, I think, that I have helped the other trustees gain a better understanding of the finances of the college and have helped them hopefully to make better decisions for the college.”
Horiszny’s college experiences directed her to where she is in her life and she hopes today’s college students can realize that it is okay to have a change of plans.
“It’s important for young people to not think that there’s only one critical decision that you’re going to make about your education or your profession,” she said. “As long as you get that four-year degree, then you have a foundation that you can easily move in other directions as your life develops, and your philosophy changes and your passions change.”