Obituary For Professor James Gwo Shong Yang

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved James Gwo Shong Yang on January 1, 2021 at the age of 82 in Montclair, New Jersey, USA. James is survived by his beloved wife, Ethel Yang; his son, Shih-Kun Yang; daughter-in-law, Li Chin Huang; granddaughter, Yu Syuan Yang, granddaughter, Chien Yu Yang; grandson, Kai Jai Yang; granddaughter, Ya Ju Yang, all in Taiwan and his nephew Edward Chen in New Jersey. He also leaves behind his lifelong friend Kin Ko (friends since they were 7 years old) and John and Sunny Wang in New Jersey. He also leaves to mourn numerous other friends, colleagues, acquaintances and admirers both in the United States and in his native country of Taiwan.

James Yang was born on February 16, 1938 in a remote farming village in Huatan Township, Changhua County in Central Taiwan. At that time, Taiwan was ruled by the Japanese. It was a hard life with no running water, electricity or public transportation. His parents had high expectations for him and named him Yang Gwo Shong. His family name, Yang, means willow tree that symbolizes flexibility and strength. Gwo means country and Shong means hero. Therefore, James’ full name can be interpreted as “a strong country hero.”

Education was considered to be extravagant and unnecessary for life in his little farming village. Nevertheless, from his youth, James had a yearning for the pursuit of knowledge. To that end, after graduating from elementary school, he passed a very competitive entrance examination and in 1951, entered Changhua High/Senior School of Commerce in Central Taiwan. His family was proud of him and fervently believed in his potential, so to avoid him commuting three (3) hours each day from home to school, his parents allowed him to move away and live with his family’s relative nearer to his school. This allowed more time for James to study and he did not disappoint. He worked and studied hard and in 1957 graduated from high school with the highest honors in his class. He again took and passed another very competitive entrance examination and entered the National Taiwan University in Taipei, the country’s most prestigious University. This great accomplishment was shared with his entire village and undoubtedly served as an inspiration for others who came after him. To help support himself during his university studies, James earned income by doing many little jobs around the university. Ultimately, he secured a full-time position as a clerk at the Bank of Taiwan. All of his hard work paid off and in 1960, after only three (3) years, James graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree (BA) in Business/Commerce.  

Three years later, in 1963, James married his high school sweetheart, Ethel Lu and soon after, he immigrated to the USA to pursue advanced studies in Accounting. One year later, he was joined in the USA by his beloved wife. Together, they formed a team and worked together to attain their dreams and make their family, village and country proud.

In 1966, James received an MS in Accounting from Utah State University, in Utah, USA. He continued his pursuit of knowledge in Accounting and enrolled in New York University Graduate School of Business Administration where he received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 1969 and a Master of Philosophy and an ABD in Accounting in 1972.

James successfully completed the rigorous requirements and obtained licenses as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). He also obtained memberships in the Chinese American Association of Certified Public Accountants, the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Institute of Management Accountants and the American Accounting Association.

In 1982, James joined Montclair State University (MSU) as Assistant Professor of Accounting in the School of Business. He progressed rapidly and quickly attained the rank of tenure and full professorship. After 35 years of service to MSU, James retired on February 1, 2018 and received the honor of Professor Emeritus in that same year.

James enjoyed teaching and research. He was loyal to MSU and devoted to the promotion of its reputation and betterment.  He treated MSU like his home and his colleagues as if they were family. He lived only two blocks away from the campus and often referred to the campus as his “backyard.” James was also extremely dedicated to his students. His passion for teaching and sense of mission to nurture the next generation motivated him to devote his entire life to his teaching career. He often said that due to his joy of teaching, he could lecture the entire day non-stop if the schedule required. He taught courses from Introductory Financial and Managerial Accounting courses to Advanced Accounting, International Taxation and Government and Not-For-Profit Accounting. Many of these courses were extremely challenging for students, yet his dedication and personally prepared lecture notes as well as his use of technology were extremely helpful and enhanced students’ understanding of these courses.  Over the years, he taught and/or advised over 4,500 graduate and undergraduate students. Many of these students subsequently became partners of the Big Four CPA firms; CEOs, CFOs of many corporations; entrepreneurs; educators and other business leaders.

Professor James Yang served on numerous University, School of Business and Department Committees. He founded the Asian and Pacific Islanders Caucus. This led to the establishment of MSU’s President’s Commission on Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity & Diversity (PCAAEOD).  He was also the founding faculty member of MSU’s Chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society and served as its Faculty Advisor for many years.

In 1983, James pioneered MSU’s global education program and was instrumental in organizing 20 training programs for more than 500 Chinese government officials and executives from China. He further organized the first two international conferences with MSU’s partner university in Beijing, China.  This led to MSU’s Disney Program as well as to many other current programs. Since then, the global education program has taken off and has now become a vital part of the university community.

James Yang was dedicated to his colleagues. He served as an inspiration to all in the department, school of business and university communities as well as to other colleagues in the wider regional, national and international communities. He served as a mentor and motivator and freely offered assistance, advice and any other help that he was able to provide. He collaborated on numerous research projects which led to the publication of articles that appeared in a variety of journals. He viewed these collaborations as rewarding experiences and which contributed to increased exposure of the university.

Professor Yang has been a prolific researcher and contributed greatly to academia and the accounting profession. His primary research interests are in the area of international taxation as well as internet commerce taxation.  During his tenure at MSU, he published over 125 refereed journal articles and presented papers at over 35 academic conferences.  Many of his articles appeared in elite journals such as Journal of Taxation, Journal of International Taxation, Journal of Forensic Accounting and Investigations, Journal of Taxation & Investment, International Tax Journal, The CPA Journal, Today’s CPA, as well as many other top level journals.  Some of his articles were designated as reading materials for Accounting Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.  He even prepared some of the income tax questions for the national uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination. He also served the CPA community by offering seminars and lectures to accounting professionals. He often stated that his actions demonstrate that he actually acted like a “CPA’s CPA.”

James received numerous honors, awards and recognitions. His research and academic strides earned him the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s “Bright Idea Award” a record four (4) times over a 10 year period from 2005 to 2015. The receipt of these awards greatly enhanced MSU’s reputation. In 2002, James was awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Institute of Management Accountants and in 1972 he also obtained the distinction of being inducted as a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society. It is apparent that his research and publications had far reaching impact at every level of the accounting and business profession.

Subsequent to his retirement, James remained active in the accounting profession. To this end, he continued to provide consulting and professional accounting services in the areas of accounting, individual, corporate and international income taxes and SEC reporting to various firms. He also continued to contribute to the accounting profession by being part of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ team who prepared income tax questions for the Uniform CPA exam. He also continued his research and publication endeavors and collaborations until his passing. In fact, subsequent to his retirement, James published at least seventeen (17) additional articles in professional journals in the areas of international taxation, corporate inversions and internet commerce. Furthermore, he continued his collaboration with his colleagues and students and continued to serve as a valuable motivator, advisor and mentor.

James had a great appreciation for the Arts and occasionally took time out of his continuously busy work to enjoy many of the musical performances held at MSU. He especially enjoyed attending the Shanghai Quartet performances as well as other musical events in his so called “backyard.”

Professor James Yang was a man of impeccable character, integrity, decency and professionalism. He was distinguished and well respected, yet he was extremely modest. He was brilliant, yet genuinely humble and kind. He always had an open door and was always available to listen intently and provide thoughtful advice and assistance to anyone who needed it. He possessed a wealth of practical experience that he willingly shared with his students, colleagues and also incorporated into his classes and his research. He was also a great role model for his peers and junior colleagues. James left an impact on everyone he encountered and truly made a difference in many lives. He will be sorely missed.

It is evident that Professor James Gwo Shong Yang lived up to his given name of being “a strong country hero.” Undoubtedly, James Yang surpassed the expectations of his parents, his family, his village and his country and made them all proud.

May the soul of our beloved James Yang rest in peace and at this sorrowful time, may his family and friends find comfort in the memories of the times you shared with him.

The Yang family requests that condolence greetings and cards (no flowers please) can be sent to James Yang’s wife at:

Mrs. Ethel Yang,

12 College Ave,

Montclair, New Jersey 07043.