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Chico State

Distinguished Alumnus and Business Professional Jon Krabbenschmidt

Jon Krabbenschmidt

As a high school student, Jon Krabbenschmidt (Business Administration, ’76) admits he chose Chico State because it offered easy access to the outdoors, where he could balance his time in the classroom with hours spent hiking, skiing, playing tennis, and hanging out in Bidwell Park. But once on campus, he was delighted to discover its captivating environment. The close community, small student-to-faculty ratio, and social atmosphere helped him thrive both in and out of the classroom. He graduated with honors and the skills to start what would become an incredible career.

Krabbenschmidt’s first step after graduating from Chico was to earn a Juris Doctor, and then become a licensed attorney and certified public accountant. He worked in the tax department at Arthur Andersen & Company in San Francisco for five years and then as executive vice president at Sierra Capital Companies. Using his personal drive and the skills he learned at Chico State, he advanced his career and built on success no matter his expertise or comfort level.

Eventually, he found his professional home after reconnecting with friends from Andersen, becoming one of the first partners of Novogradac & Company LLP, an accounting, tax, and consulting firm that is now a nationally recognized leader in the tax credit industry. While at Novogradac he specialized in tax law, authored books on affordable housing, spoke at tax credit conferences, and provided expert witness testimony. He retired after 30 years of service and now focuses on flying his plane, heliskiing at his lodge in Alaska, and managing his own real estate investment and development business.

What does it mean to be recognized as a Chico State distinguished alum?

I am surprised and honored to be one of Chico’s distinguished alumni. I remain forever grateful that I went to Chico State and for the quality of education I received. Just being an alum means a lot to me, but being a Distinguished Alum? I guess it really means I am an example of what one can do with a Chico State degree, and I enjoy that. That said, I am not used to being singled out or praised by others, so getting an honorary award is a little daunting. I am just a normal person like all the other Chico graduates who work hard and accomplish so much with their lives, but maybe I can be seen as an example to the newer Chico State students wondering about their future.

What professional and life advice would you give to students today?

My advice to students is to get a technical degree—business, engineering, nursing, teaching, computer science, communications, etc.—all programs Chico State offers. These are great degrees by which you can immediately get a job and start building a personal skill set over a short period of time. Get the degree that will get you a job immediately, gain experience, and at some point, determine how that skill set evolves into new adventures. This will set a foundation for a lifetime of fulfillment and exploration.

You have led quite an incredible life, from accounting to law to real estate to writing, not to mention heliskiing and being a pilot in your recreational time. How have you embraced lifelong learning?

Throughout my life, everything I have done is in the spirit of seeking out new experiences to enhance my understanding of how the world works. One of the greatest skillsets Chico gave me was the confidence to do this. I was never afraid to undertake new projects despite my lack of background and experience. At one point, I helped, along with my partners, start and operate a new accounting firm, which grew from five to 750 employees. Whether it was tax consulting, financing affordable housing, authoring technical tax books, or speaking at conferences, I was not that good at first, but in time I became knowledgeable in the subject matter and ultimately provided expert witness testimony in court. Lack of background never prevented me from trying new things that continually build on past experiences.

How do you create positive change in your sphere of influence?

Society and the world we live in changes constantly. Every day there are new challenges. My role at this point in life is to use my prior experiences to help others grow. Hopefully, sharing prior experiences will allow others to see sooner how things are evolving, so they can adjust to that unfamiliar environment and become better, stronger, faster at whatever they are doing.