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Danbury CPA partner and his wife help WCSU accounting students to follow in their footsteps
Tony '88 and Jeanette '90 Cirone

Tony Cirone remembers the financial challenges he faced when he started out at Western two decades ago on the career path that led him to success as a Certified Public Accountant and partner at Equale and Cirone LLP in Danbury.

Today the 1988 bachelor’s degree recipient in accounting and his wife Jeanette, WCSU graduate in the class of 1990, are helping to smooth the path for Western accounting students to follow in his footsteps through the establishment in 2010 of the Anthony W. Cirone Jr. Accounting Leadership Award. The annual scholarship award recognizes an accounting major entering junior or senior year who demonstrates academic excellence, financial need and active engagement in extracurricular activities.

“We are trying to help a student who is in financial need – someone who today is in the same situation that I was in when I was paying my way through college as a student,” Cirone remarked. “This scholarship gives some help to students who have the work ethic, initiative and desire to graduate with an accounting degree and become a CPA. My hope is that they will be able to use this help to focus more on their studies. It’s rewarding to be able to give back.”

Cirone has expressed a debt of gratitude to Western for providing firm foundations for his professional career through his academic training in the classroom as well as the opportunity to intern at the firm of Danbury accountant Bob Corey.  It was also during his undergraduate studies at WCSU that he met his future wife Jeanette; they now make their home in Newtown with their four children, ages 15, 12, 10 and 6.

After working for four years at a Hartford accounting firm, Cirone returned to Danbury in 1992 to become sole owner of his own accounting practice. In 1999 he established a partnership with fellow CPA Joseph Equale, and they later joined forces with CPA Derek DeLeo as the firm expanded its range of accounting and financial services to employ a staff of about 20 at offices in Danbury and Wilton.

“We’re trying to establish ourselves as one of the premier accounting firms in the Danbury area,” Cirone noted. “Many CPA firms are still owned by sole proprietors, and the average age of CPA partners today is in the mid to late 50s. Since many have no one with experience to take over when they are preparing for retirement, they are calling on firms like ours to help them to arrange an exit strategy. Accounting firms of all sizes are combining because they’re finding you’re better off together than apart.”

Equale & Cirone’s recent acquisition and openness to future expansion opportunities reflect the positive outlook for the accounting profession even in the midst of an uneven and weak economic recovery. “Our business is relatively recession-proof,” Cirone observed. “No matter what the economic conditions, you still have to do tax filings, you still have to conduct audits, you still have to prepare financial statements.”

Cirone has long turned to his alma mater to recruit Western accounting students for internship and coop positions as well as full-time employment at his firm. Equale & Cirone visits the WCSU campus on a regular basis to interview student applicants at the university’s Career Development Center, and Western graduates who have interned with the firm gain a solid competitive edge in competing for job openings in the profession.

“Each year I’ve found the students have been better prepared, especially in their interviewing skills,” he said. “While the student’s grade point average is important, we also look for internships and other extracurricular activities, such as clubs and athletics, that have given them exposure to the business world and provided opportunities to give back in service to the community. I would encourage every accounting student to get an internship.”

Cirone remains actively engaged with Western as a member of the Ancell School of Business advisory board, which has afforded the opportunity to work with Dean Dr. Allen Morton and fellow board members to advance the development of ASB as a leading regional business school.

“The school has come a long way,” he observed. “We have many great people from the area business community on the board who are giving back to the university, and I’ve seen a lot accomplished in the years that I’ve been involved. The biggest challenge we face today is in recruiting and maintaining a quality faculty and in finding the resources to keep our focus on priorities for future growth.”

Cirone recognized that the need for increased scholarship resources also remains substantial as students today take on higher levels of debt to meet their educational costs. But he assured accounting students who persevere that the job market in the profession holds abundant promise for those who attain CPA certification, and he noted those who earn a Master of Business Administration will further enhance their employment prospects.

“The opportunities will continue to be great in public accounting,” he said. “We are always looking for fresh opportunities to grow our business, and some of the most successful entrepreneurs have started their businesses in the most difficult economic conditions. So never use the economy as an excuse for not pursuing your passion.”

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