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UR remembers Paul Clikeman

<p>The University of Richmond flag flies at half-staff.&nbsp;</p>

The University of Richmond flag flies at half-staff. 

Paul Clikeman, a professor of accounting in the Robins School of Business who was beloved for his unyielding moral compass and his dedication to his students, died on Nov. 19, according to a Nov. 19 email to University of Richmond faculty, staff and students.

Clikeman passed away unexpectedly, according to the Nov. 19 email, which was sent by Craig Kocher, university chaplain. Clikeman is survived by his wife, Margaret, and their three children, John, Kathryn and Miles, who are all UR graduates. He was 60 years old. 

Clikeman began teaching at UR in 1995 and taught financial accounting and auditing in the undergraduate and master's programs during his 25 years at UR, according to the Nov. 19 email. In 2002, he was awarded the Robins School’s Outstanding Teacher Award, and in 2019 he was named the MBA program’s Outstanding Professor. Clikeman was also named a Robins Teaching Fellow in 2019 alongside fellow accounting professor Joe Hoyle. 

Professor Paul Clikeman began teaching at UR in 1995. Courtesy of the Robins School of Business

“Dr. Clikeman was a person who took teaching extremely seriously,” Hoyle, a longtime friend of Clikeman, said. “He cared for the students. He viewed them as almost an extended member of his family. 

"He wanted them to learn. He wanted them to do well. He wanted them to find their passion.”

Hoyle said Clikeman’s way of thinking, whether about teaching or anything else in life, had highlighted his character.

“He thought about everything and what was the proper thing to do,” Hoyle said. “I don’t know how many people you meet over in the dorms or on campus who have a really strong moral compass. A lot of times we do just whatever is convenient or whatever keeps us out of trouble. Dr. Clikeman thought about things in trying to figure out what was the proper thing to do, and he would do it. 

"If he believed that something was the right thing to do — and he didn’t live by any kind of compromise — he believed he should do whatever was the right thing to do. He believed that helping students to find their place in life was just very important. He was quiet, he was thoughtful. But he wanted you to do well.”

Clikeman’s passion for his students' wellbeing went beyond the classroom. He would often email his students to check in with them and provide insight from his own life experiences, Hoyle said. 

“My philosophy is very simple," Clikeman said during the Sept. 2019 event when he was installed as a Robins Teaching Fellow. "I teach students, not accounting.”

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In an email sent to his UR '06 students, Clikeman shared the story of Barry Minkow, a con-man turned pastor whose pursuits in life initially led him astray. At the end of the email, Clikeman imparted advice to his students as they graduated:

“The obvious lesson from Minkow’s life is to be careful what means you use to pursue your goals," he wrote. "Don’t use drugs as a shortcut to happiness. Don’t use fraud or other improper behavior to achieve wealth. 

"A far more profound lesson is to select your goals wisely. Minkow pursued strength instead of health. He pursued sex instead of a committed relationship. He pursued wealth instead of purpose. I hope each of you achieves your share of professional and financial success, but also pray you will seek and find things that are far more important. Loyal friends, a faithful spouse/companion and faith in an eternal God who will sustain you through life’s inevitable problems.”

One of the UR '06 students, to whom Clikeman initially sent the email, forwarded Hoyle a copy after Clikeman's passing, Hoyle said. The former student told Hoyle that he had saved the email since graduation and had gone back to it frequently to remind himself how to live his life, Hoyle said. 

Metin Saraoglu, a senior and one of Clikeman’s students this semester, said he had quickly realized that Clikeman was not an ordinary professor after enrolling in his auditing course. 

“It wasn’t about doing well in an accounting class,” Saraoglu said. “It wasn’t just like, you did that semester and you got your A or whatever you learned in auditing and then moved on. Even before the class started I think he laid out in a really spectacular way that he wanted us to succeed, and he wanted us to learn more about the profession, and he really cared about our personal growth.

"I could tell right away that Dr. Clikeman was different. He did things in his own way which was a great way to approach life. ... The way he spoke, the way that he conducted himself, the way that he engaged students right off the bat was something unique to him.”

Saraoglu described his first encounter with Clikeman as an example of how he was different from other professors. Clikeman, unlike Saraoglu’s other professors, spent time making sure he pronounced Saraoglu's name correctly, Saraoglu said. Clikeman did not mispronounce Saraoglu's name once the entire semester, Saraoglu said. 

Nancy Bagranoff, an accounting professor and friend of Clikeman, said Clikeman's perspective on teaching had taught her new ways of thinking even after 40 years of teaching students herself. For Bagranoff, the transition back to campus this semester was daunting with all of the new technology being implemented in the classroom, she said. Clikeman eased her worries.

“Paul gave a demonstration of the use of that technology,” Bagranoff said. “He was the perfect person to do it because Paul was always working very hard and learning and refining his teaching, he continuously refined just teaching.

"Paul said something that really just heartened me so much he said, ‘It’s just like driving.’ When you first start trying to drive and remember all the things you have to remember, it’s scary. You keep practicing and practicing and then it is just automatic... He was exactly right. I thought that was amazing."

Saraoglu said that Clikeman's dedication to his students along with Clikeman's passion and intelligence made Saraoglu excited for each class. 

“I appreciate professors [who] think about their students, not just as numbers, but actual individuals,” Saraoglu said. “I really loved going to Dr. Clikeman’s class, and not just for the fact that he was a caring person. Dr. Clikeman was probably the smartest professor I’ve ever had in my life.”

Clikeman’s funeral service will be held at Redeemer Lutheran Church at 11 a.m. on Nov. 30, although in-person attendance will be by invitation only because of COVID-19 precautions. The service will also be live-streamed, beginning with a slideshow at 10:45 a.m., according to a Nov. 25 email sent by Kocher to faculty, staff and students.

Contact features writer Quinn Humphrey at quinn.humphrey@richmond.edu.

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