Best known as the founder and president of the Becker CPA Review Course, the largest CPA review course in the country, Newt Becker was also an entrepreneur and a passionate, hands-on philanthropist who mentored and inspired a large number of start-up charitable organizations.
Newt, 83, was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1928. After he graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor's degree in Accounting and served with the United States Army in Germany, Newt joined Price Waterhouse as an associate in its Cleveland office. He also obtained a Master's degree in Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University.
While at Price Waterhouse, studying for the CPA exam along with the other newly minted associates, his Eureka moment arrived when he realized that proper preparation could substantially increase the pass rate of the grueling two-day, four-part exam. Started as an in-house study system for Price Waterhouse staff, the Becker CPA Review Course took off when Newt left the firm after several years to establish the course as an independent entity. His easygoing, comforting voice, whether in person or on tape, would become well known by the more than 400,000 graduates of the course, many of whom became leading figures in the world of Accounting and Finance. At one point, about half of the CPAs in America were his former students. His management style was hands-on and he regularly inspected the classrooms, sat in on classes, and reviewed the material, all done with a eye toward benefiting his students. Becoming an icon in the world of accounting, Newt received an Honorary Doctorate from Kent State in 1984, and Beta Alpha Psi, Accounting's honor society, awarded him Accountant of the Year. In 1996, he sold the company to DeVry International.
Becker CPA was just one part of Newt's story. A true Renaissance man, he foresaw the difficulties, both politically and environmentally, in relying on imported oil for the nation's energy needs and became a pioneer in the fledgling field of solar power. The chairman and founding investor of Luz International, at one time the leading developer of solar energy electrical plants, Newt took his passionate leadership of the solar industry all the way to the halls of Congress, arguing for tax benefits that would allow renewable energy to be competitive with fossil fuels. Newt was also prescient in his advocacy for electric automobiles, serving as Chairman of the Board of Electrical Fuel, a company that made batteries for electric cars.
Educator and entrepreneur, Newt was also a visionary and philanthropist. He became concerned about the rise of terrorism and fanaticism long before it occupied a central place at the national debate. Heavily influenced by Eric Hoffer's seminal work, The True Believer, Newt became a major funder and lay leader of organizations that battled such extremism.
Greatly appreciative of all of the freedoms and opportunities that the United States provided, Newt was also a strong defender of the State of Israel and cared deeply about the Jewish people and their survival. He used his considerable talents and boundless energy to advocate on their behalf. Newt supported a wide range of charitable causes in the United States, Israel, and Europe and brought his entrepreneurial spirit and funding to help with many start up charitable organizations. In addition to his wife, Rochelle, he is survived by five children, David, Laura, Daniel, Bryan and Bradley, and nine grandchildren.
His funeral will take place Thursday, January 5th at 2:00 p.m. at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills, Tanach Chapel, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, California 90068.