James R. (Jim) Parks ’72, MBT ’75 wants the USC Leventhal School of Accounting to be No. 1. And he’s doing all that he can to make that happen.
One of the most generous donors to Leventhal, his $15 million gift in 2015 named the Jennifer and James R. Parks Master of Business Taxation Program, endowed the Jennifer and James R. Parks Chair of Taxation for the MBT program director, and supported the accounting building renovation, scholarships and other academic priorities. The gift was second in size only to the Elaine and Kenneth Leventhal naming gift made in 1996.
Parks’ latest major gift of $3 million will endow a second chair in accounting: the James R. Parks Endowed Chair in Accounting. His generosity is driven by his enthusiasm for making a difference in the future of the School.
“I think everyone should major in accounting if they want to be in business, and whether they want to be an accountant or not. It is the language of business. Effectively, if you majored in accounting and then went into some other discipline, you couldn’t possibly go wrong.”—Jim Parks '72, MBT '75
“I want to help the USC Leventhal School of Accounting continue to be one of the best schools in the nation, and I want us to increase our standing,” said Parks, executive director of CBIZ MHM, LLC Tax and Advisory Business Services, one of the 10 largest accounting firms in the United States. “Hopefully we will get to No. 1.”
The School is on its way. In 2019, Public Accounting Report ranked Leventhal No. 5 for graduate and No. 6 for undergraduate. For 2020, The Big Four accounting firms ranked Leventhal No. 6. Also this year, Leventhal made No. 1 in the TFE Times rankings.
“We are deeply grateful for Jim Parks’ steadfast and continued generosity, and his enduring commitment to the Leventhal School,” said Dean William W. Holder. “This gift will help us attract and retain premier faculty to our school in perpetuity. Indeed, it is these types of gifts that give me complete confidence in the future of our programs and the exceptional educational quality to which we all aspire.”
A double Trojan and one of the first graduates of the MBT program, Parks attributes his success to his education. “My career and whatever success I’ve enjoyed I trace to the foundation I got from my USC education,” he said. “And my MBT truly gave me a leg up in order to advance my career.”
A Trojan for Life
Parks has more than 40 years of experience providing diversified tax, business management and litigation consulting. With fellow Leventhal alumni Michael Palmer, Roberta Turner and Alex Yemenidjian, he founded Parks, Palmer, Turner & Yemenidjian LLP in 1978. It was acquired by CBIZ Inc. in 1998.
In addition to heading CBIZ’s Los Angeles office and family office service group, Parks is also chairman of Realty Center Management Inc., a real estate investment company that owns through its affiliates an interest in approximately 10,000 apartment units and more than 300,000 square feet of commercial office space. Additionally, Parks is involved in several hotel projects, including the development of a Hyatt concept hotel at Los Angeles International Airport and a hotel project in Tribeca, New York.
A Trojan for nearly 50 years, Parks has remained actively involved with his alma mater. He has led development efforts as a member of the Marshall Board of Leaders since its inception and as a member of the support group for the Jennifer and James R. Parks Master of Business Taxation Program. This fall, he becomes an inaugural member of the new Marshall Board of Councilors.
“I still have those ties,” Parks said. “I’ve never left the USC family.” In 2011, he received the USC Leventhal Beta Alpha Psi Outstanding Alumnus Award.
A community college transfer student who got scholarships to help pay for his USC education, Parks recommends an accounting degree to anyone seeking an education. “I think everyone should major in accounting if they want to be in business, and whether they want to be an accountant or not.”
“Well, it is the language of business,” he said, laughing. “Effectively, if you majored in accounting and then went into some other discipline, you couldn’t possibly go wrong.”