January 23, 2015

In Memory of Edwin J. Kliegman

In Memory of Edwin J. Kliegman

Our firm’s co-founder, Edwin J. Kliegman, passed away on Wednesday. It was a sobering occasion for those of us who knew and admired him. Many if not most of you never had the opportunity to meet him, but had it not been for Ed, my life may have turned out very differently.

Ed and his partner, Edwin Marcum, founded Marcum & Kliegman, as we were previously known, in the summer of 1951. Legend has it that they shared a single desk in an office above a retail strip on Northern Boulevard in Flushing, Queens, New York, later moving the office out to Long Island.

Ed and his wife, Doris, first entered my orbit in the 1960’s in Massapequa, Long Island, where our families both lived and attended the same synagogue. So it seems I’ve known the Kliegmans for most of my life.

When I graduated college with an accounting degree in 1979, I took a job at one of the “big eight” accounting firms. Whenever Ed would run into my parents at temple, he would always ask about me and tell them that if I was ever looking for a change I should call him. As fate would have it, two years into my accounting career I became disenchanted with the large firm environment and was ready for that change. My mother said to give Ed Kliegman a call (“What do you have to lose?“), and so I did. And as they say, the rest is history.

I went to meet with Ed & Ed, and although they weren’t hiring at the time, they hired me anyway. That was September 11, 1981. There were six people at the firm at that time, including the two Eds. Ed Marcum retired in 1985, leaving Ed Kliegman and me the sole partners in the firm, which by then had grown to 15 people. By 1991, Ed had passed our then-mandatory retirement age of 65, and we had the first of my two most difficult business conversations ever. We had four other partners at that time, but I was the Managing Partner and it was my job to tell Ed it was time for him to retire and let the next generation have their shot. Ed couldn’t have been more gracious and understanding. In fact his reaction was, “What took you so long?” And off into the sunset he rode.

One of the reasons I think he took it so well was that throughout his career Ed was a tireless advocate for the issues facing small and medium sized accounting firms. He understood innately the need to keep bringing in new talent to grow the firm and to cultivate the future leadership. He was as astute as they come.

My second difficult conversation with Ed occurred in June 2009 when we decided it was time to change the name of the Firm from Marcum & Kliegman to just Marcum. So I picked up the phone, called Ed, and again he reacted with style and grace, understanding this as the next natural step in the Firm’s continuing evolution.

I don’t think that Ed, nor certainly I, could have predicted in September 1981 how the firm he had founded 30 years earlier would be transformed over the ensuing decades, but I do know he was extremely proud of our accomplishments.

Of course, he had a great deal to be proud of himself. Ed Kliegman was a visionary who was widely respected not only by his clients and colleagues, but throughout the accounting profession. A leader who pioneered the establishment of the accounting business on Long Island, he was also very well known nationally and internationally as an outspoken proponent of the highest professional standards and as a lecturer and author devoted to the cause of small and medium sized firms. Marcum LLP is proud to carry on his legacy.

I have been very fortunate over the years in my career here at Marcum, and I owe that opportunity to Ed Kliegman. He was my partner, a mentor and a friend. I will remember him with great admiration and affection always.

Ed’s wife, Doris, pre-deceased him. He is survived by four children – Steven, David, Robin and Kathy – to whom the entire Marcum team extends our sincerest condolences.

Rest in peace, Ed, and thank you for everything.

Note: In December 2014, just a month before his passing, Ed Kliegman was profiled in the newsletter of the Nassau Chapter of the New York State Society of CPAs. You can read more about this prolific accounting leader here.