Applauding Alumni: Robert Naftaly

Applauding Alumni:
Robert Naftaly
Diploma – Accountancy and Financial Administration, 1959

Retired CPA, Health Industry Executive
1965-66 Alumni Association President
1987 Distinguished Alumnus
Walsh College Trustee: 2002-present

Growing up, Robert Naftaly didn’t have a career plan. However, his uncle,  Sam Geller (Diploma ’39; Distinguished Alumnus ’86; Trustee ’73-’94), had one for him.
“He said, ‘This is what you’re going do: Take bookkeeping in high school. When you get out of high school, work with me in the accounting firm and go to Walsh at night to become a CPA.’”
Looking back, his uncle’s plan sparked a career that propelled Naftaly to extraordinary heights in public service, health care, and finance.
Naftaly recalls attending class at 120 Madison and the challenge of getting a parking spot and evading the meter maid. He enjoyed the commonality of interest with the other students.
“We were all in the same boat – working at an accounting office or business during the day. Going to school was tiring, especially during tax season, but I always liked it. All the teachers were professional people, so we got a practical education as well as book learning.”
This combination of a Walsh education and practical experience was a match for Naftaly’s natural leadership skills. He says it not only taught him accounting, but also how to think and solve problems. “Walsh set the pathway for me to go into public accounting, government, and business.”
His career included co-founding and being a managing partner of Geller, Naftaly, Herbach & Shapero, serving as director of the Michigan Department of Management and Budget during former Gov. James Blanchard’s administration, and serving as vice president and general auditor for Detroit Edison. He joined Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 1998 and held several executive management positions.
Currently active on boards, commissions and in charity work, Naftaly believes, “If you do well, it’s your obligation to give back. Walsh gave me the foundation that helped provide for me and for my family. That foundation still serves me well, 50 years later.”

Naftaly has generously supported Walsh for 32 years. Robert and Anita Naftaly are members of the Mervyn B. Walsh Society for cumulative giving, and two Troy campus rooms are a result of his generosity: a faculty area office (the Geller, Naftaly, Herbach & Shapero) and classroom 128 (Robert H. and Anita Naftaly).

Always engaged in organizations that are important to him, Naftaly served as Walsh Alumni Association president in 1965-66 and received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1987. A trustee since 2002, he has served under four Walsh presidents – from Jeff Barry, who he says, “had the vision to move from downtown to Troy” – to Stephanie Bergeron, who “is keeping us up with the times and making the brand stronger, which is incredibly important to the southeast Michigan economy.”

He sees Walsh continuing to build on its tradition of graduating many of southeast Michigan’s CPAs and MBAs. “Employers know when they hire Walsh grads, they are getting good workers who are well educated.”

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