IMA Life: A Lifetime of Learning

By Mel Matias, Jr., CMA, CPA
May 1, 2017

I came to the United States 30 years ago with nothing but five pesos (fewer than 50 U.S. cents back then) in my pocket as part of the RP-U.S. bases agreement U.S. Navy enlistment program. At that time, I had just taken the Philippine CPA board exams. I learned during boot camp that I’d passed.


Fifteen years later, before retiring from the U.S. Navy as a chief personnelman, I took the two-year accounting certificate program at U.C. Berkeley to be able to sit for the California CPA board exams. Then while working as a business and planning analyst at the Boeing Company, I went back to school and earned my MBA at Columbia College of Missouri. I decided to cap my business competencies by becoming a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant).


As both a CMA and a CPA at Boeing in Seattle, I did licensing audits on royalty and technology contracts and designed audit programs. My interaction with the lawyers of Fortune 100 companies sparked my interest in a law degree. Because of my heavy travel assignments, I knew a regular law school schedule was impossible. But during a stopover in Detroit on a flight back from an audit in the U.K., I spotted an item about Cooley Law School and its ABA-approved weekend J.D. program.


Then in my first year, my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, dying a month before my final exams; I had to request special accommodation to take them. My father died the following year. Both parents had helped me, a single father, to raise my sons, Andy and Michael. It was a personal struggle.


A year later, my son Michael was diagnosed with brain cancer a month before he was to start law school. My son Andy, who was in law school, and I each took a term break to be with Michael during his final six months. Had he survived, all three of us would be taking the bar exams. Now Andy and I are taking them this year—with all our thoughts dedicated to Michael.


With this perspective, my CMA, and a versatile background, I carried on, planning to do an LLM in tax or corporate business and compliance. I have since been accepted at the UW LLM-Tax program, which I intend to start this fall. I’m currently studying for the July Washington state bar exam.


Through it all, I’ve always been fascinated with money—who isn’t? When I was six, we had lots of fruit trees in our home in provincial Philippines. I would pedal around town with baskets full of avocados and mangoes and make enough money for my snacks the entire school year. Because I don’t like to see people going without, I provided tax assistance to military families and the elderly through the ­Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program during my Navy service.


Once I pass the Washington state bar exam, I vow to continue giving back to my community by providing affordable or pro-bono legal assistance to the disenfranchised. It’s important to use my knowledge to help the elderly, the military, the poor, the LGBQT community, single parents like I am, and students—anyone struggling to be able to afford legal advice and representation to assert their rights.


Mel Matias, Jr., CMA, CPA, was an auditor and analyst with Boeing and is now preparing for the Washington state bar exam in July 2017. He can be reached at matiasm@cooley.edu.  
1 + Show Comments
1 comment.
    JETUR P. SIMON May 30, 2017 AT 2:00 pm

    Congrats Mate…Proud to have a successful mate like you. I pray that you pass the Washington bar exam…miss you mate

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