Sid Kess, the letter’s finale, forever etched in my heart.

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The Last Letter Sid Kess Wrote to Me

In Memoriam

By Scott Zarret, CPA

In Memoriam, Featured, September/October 2023, News & Views | December 2023

Sid and I met through a mutual friend at a dinner six years ago when Sid was 91 years young. He quickly became my mentor and friend, and then officially the executive advisor to CPAacademy.org. We were in regular phone and e-mail contact throughout the past six years. He was extremely passionate and supportive of our mission, sharing an astonishing number of creative ideas, connections, and strategies for our platform.

The last letter Sid wrote to me, one week before his passing, embodied so much of who he was: wise, optimistic, inspiring, humble, and kind. His passion for education, dedication to the profession, and genuine care for people have left an indelible mark on me and countless others—I hope to capture the essence of his spirit and the profound impact he had on me and the accounting world.

First and foremost, Sid was one of those rare individuals who lifted up those around him, making everyone he encountered feel valued and cherished—something his family lovingly referred to as the “Sid Kess Glow.” I get emotional thinking about his last letter to me, in which he encouraged me to “keep up the important work” and “keep innovating,” and told me that he was proud of me. What a sincere privilege to have him as a mentor—I often marvel at how I had the good fortune to luck into a relationship with a man of his stature and experience, a man who freely shared his wisdom and ideas.

Sid was a pioneer of accounting education. We immediately bonded over our shared passion for educating accounting professionals. Sid strongly believed that the reach and quality of CPE topics was critically important for the advancement of the profession, and he worked diligently and creatively as a leader in this area his entire life. Sid was the original—packing a suitcase to travel around the country to provide education in-person, the only method available at the time. When he realized that technology offered the opportunity to make high-quality education more widely and easily accessible, he was thrilled! He saw the possibility to really improve the profession and support accounting professionals in a major way. In particular, his last letter notes the importance of using education to “tackle so many important foundational issues, including affordable continuing education and a holistic view of practitioners that considers the emotional and physical impact of the work environment.”

Sid was a family man, adored by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We often spoke about putting family at the center of life, and that even as a leader dedicated to improving the profession, family helped keep him grounded. In his last letter to me, he advised me to “keep up your family time and focus on spending quality time with your wife and children as you have been doing!” I take this advice to heart. Over the last few years, I have put a lot of focus on making sure I am prioritizing time with my family and staying present, while running a company. I have my wonderful team at CPAacademy.org to thank for enabling me to confidently find more balance in work and life, which allows me to be more creative and focused while providing a deeper well to pour into the company.

Last, but certainly not least, Sid was an optimist. He taught me that hope is essential to life and business. In his last letter, he spoke of having a sense of “hope and positivity that the profession will grow and become stronger.” He wrote, “I believe that your proactive, resilient, all-inclusive approach is just what we need, not only in accounting but in our world, in general. Stay hopeful and spread hope … no matter how difficult the situation, one must keep hope alive in order to survive and thrive.”

Bottom line, Sid Kess made a deep-rooted impact on the accounting profession and on me, both personally and professionally. He was a man of great depth and wholehearted compassion. He radiated an aura that attracted people from all backgrounds. Whether it was his sharp wit, unwavering optimism, or boundless love, he drew everyone into his orbit. I miss Sid, our chats, our letters—any opportunity we had to connect—it always left me feeling inspired and hopeful. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of his life during his sunset chapter—a truly unique gift that has forever changed my life for the better.

Scott Zarret, CPA, is the president of CPAacademy.org.

Key Points:

  • Sid Kess was a mentor and friend who left an indelible mark on the author and the accounting world.
  • Sid was passionate about education and believed in the importance of affordable continuing education for accountants.
  • He valued family and advised the author to prioritize spending quality time with loved ones.
  • Sid was an optimist who believed in the growth and strength of the accounting profession.
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