Alumni Spotlight: Steve Kaffen '67
Alumni Spotlight: Steve Kaffen '67
By Meghan Sykes
Steve Kaffen ‘67 just might be the most interesting man in the world.
A former Peace Corps volunteer, radio DJ and avid World Cup fan, this Terp is an MBA and CPA-toting author and world traveler who has lived in many different countries and once ran into Sir Edmund Hillary in the Himalayas.
How did this incredible life come to be? Kaffen credits his years at the University of Maryland for teaching him to take risks, get involved and try new things.
As a student Kaffen had a full schedule, packed with extracurriculars. “I played clarinet in the Mighty Sound of Maryland (the marching band), and I had a weekly morning and afternoon show, and a Friday evening oldies show on WMUC,” he said, adding, “Saturday evenings, my roommate and I would take a bus into D.C. to the Howard Theater to see great entertainers like the Supremes, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder and James Brown.”
After getting his B.S. in Accounting from UMD and an MBA in Finance from Syracuse University, Kaffen worked in radio for a year before joining Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young). He spent ten years there, including three years in Paris as the director of accounting and auditing.
“My French courses at Maryland helped me land the Paris job. I took a risk and flew to Paris for a long weekend, stopped in the office, and switched to speaking French in the middle of a chat with the managing partner.” He continued, “I always advise students, regardless of major, to take a few language courses.”
Not just a ‘numbers’ guy, Kaffen authored five books as a result from extended periods of personal travel: Asia Without Borders, Europe by Bus, Incredible India and Boundless Bhutan, Minsk [Belarus] and the European Games and Unexpected Journey, which describes the evolution of what was supposed to be a six-week trip to China to study Chinese. (Spoiler Alert - the trip lasted several years and highlights include meeting Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay while hiking in the Everest Himalayas and hitching a ride to Antarctica with the Chilean Navy!).
After a successful career in finance and auditing, working with Levi Strauss, in the motion picture industry, the Office of Inspector General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, USAID and the Peace Corps, Kaffen is enjoying retirement (of sorts).
“It’s now time to write, blog, give talks about travel and the world, and lecture on auditing in government. I promised myself this. It’s become my mission.”
He hopes to release two additional books by year-end in addition to launching a photo-rich website. But don’t count the DJ out either, Kaffen is thinking about beginning a podcast in the near future as well.
Whatever project he is working on, Kaffen still makes time to visit College Park, where the foundation for his adventurous life began. He enjoys Maryland’s unique energy, having lunch at the Stamp Student Union and occasionally dropping in on the student DJs at WMUC.
During football season he arrives early for the marching band’s pregame shows and pays particular attention to the clarinets, whom he says, “March a lot better than I ever did!”
Steve Kaffen - globetrotting accountant author DJ alumnus extraordinaire - forever a Terp!
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