First AFCPE Distinguished Fellows Named
Tahira Hira, Jerry Mason, and Mary J. Stephenson
At the annual conference of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education in
November, 1996, the first AFCPE Distinguished Fellows were named. A Distinguished Fellow of
AFCPE must have given long exemplary service to the association, be recognized as a national leader
in financial counseling and planning education, and possess high standards of professional and ethical
conduct. Below are descriptions of the three Fellows, who were instrumental in helping AFCPE grow
to the organization it is today.
Tahira Hira, Iowa State
University professor of
human development and
family studies, was the
founding president of
AFCPE, Hira is a nationally
recognized expert on
personal finance and
consumer debt. Hira served as the first executive director of the
Association for Financial Counseling and Planning
Hira founded Iowa State’s Family Financial Counseling
Clinic and developed several financial management
courses. She has also written numerous articles on
family financial planning, bankruptcy and consumer
She often consults with businesses, banking institutions,
legal professionals, foreign economists and government
A member of the Iowa State faculty since 1980, Tahira
Hira proposed and developed the undergraduate
curriculum in family financial counseling and the Family
Financial Counseling Clinic which serves as a laboratory
for students as well as providing a service to the
university and Ames community. She has studied and
compared consumer debt and bankruptcy issues and
family economics in Canada, Japan, Scotland, the United
States, Australia and New Zealand. She has received
research distinction awards in Japan and Canada and
funding in support of her research from government
agencies in Canada and Scotland. She was recipient of the
Iowa State University College for Family and Consumer
Sciences (CFCS) Research Excellence Award in 1993
and the CFCS Award for International Achievement in
In 1996, Hira led a 9-day workshop for 20 Japanese
businessmen. The goal was to help them better
understand U.S. financial counseling methods. The 20
businessmen are managers in some of Japan’s largest
financial institutions and have been recognized as
emerging leaders in the consumer finance industry.
While financial counseling and consumer education
services are readily accessible in the United States, this is
not the case in Japan, said Hira. In Japan, the availability
of financial counseling services is limited and costly,she
said. Hira described the workshop as a proactive effort by
members of the Japanese Consumer Finance Association
to make services available on a larger scale.
Throughout his career,
Mason has been an
innovative leader in the
field of financial counseling
and financial planning.
Jerry Mason played several
key roles during the
formative years of AFCPE.
Mason co-chaired the first
meeting at Brigham Young
University (where he was
then on the faculty), and he
also delivered a substantive
paper at that meeting that is
still popular today,
“Financial Planner or Financial Counselor: The
Differences Are Significant.” He served in many
elective and appointed position in AFCPE, including the
first By-laws chair, first AFCPE Newsletter editor, chair
of AFCPE’s National Financial Planning/Counseling
Internship Clearinghouse, and the first elected Past-president. He also served on the AFCPE’s Board of
Directors. Mason served two years as AFCPE’s Director
of Certification for the Accredited Financial Counselor
(AFC) program. During this time he launched the
program as the first AFC candidates enrolled in the
program, registered for course work, and completed
certification examinations. AFCPE honored him as
Educator of the Year in 1993.
Jerry Mason earned his Ph.D from the University of
Missouri in Family Economics, his MBA from Stanford
University and a BS in Economics from Brigham Young
University. He is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a
Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), and a Chartered
Financial Consultant (ChFC).
Mason served as the first Director of Education for the
International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP),
and has served for many years as President of the West
Texas Chapter of the IAFP. For more than a decade he
has served on the Board of Directors of the National
Foundation for Consumer Credit.
Currently Dr. Mason is a faculty member at Texas Tech
University in Lubbock, Texas where he teaches in the
Family Financial Planning program. Mason was selected
Teacher of the Year at Texas Tech University in 1994,
and he received the Texas Tech President’s Teaching
Award in 1996. Most recently, Mason helped launch the
Center for Financial Responsibility at Texas Tech
University. Since 1990 he has had a quarter-time
appointment with the Texas A&M Agricultural
Extension Service for whom he develops and trains
extension agents to deliver financial planning workshops.
Dr. Mason has published extensively, including Increase
Your Job Security, The Easy Family Budget Book, and
Debt Addiction: You Can Break the Habit. He has been
quoted numerous times in Financial Planning, Money,
The New York Times, and USA Today, as well as in many
other national, state and local periodicals.
Jerald Mason lives in Lubbock, Texas with his wife
Joyce. They are the parents of six children, three of
whom are in college.
Mary J. Stephenson
Mary played a number of
key roles in creating
AFCPE as a discussant and
confidant of others in
attendance at both the
Brigham Young and Iowa
State University meetings.
She has held most of the
elective positions in
president, secretary, and
board member at large.
Mary has actively
participated in all annual
conferences except in 1992 when she was ill. That year
she received the AFCPE Distinguished Service Award.
In addition, Mary served as the military preconference
chair, conference local arrangements chair, AFCPE
Newsletter editor, and director of AFCPE’s certification
As chair of AFCPE’s Certification Committee, Mary
sought the support and encouragement of the U.S. Army.
Consequently, Isaac Templeton, Consumer Affairs
Program Manager, procured the money to prepay the
certification fees for Army registrants. This initial
funding was used to print the original study materials and
pay operating expenses.
In 1994, Mary assumed the role as director of the
Accredited Financial Counselor program. Under her
leadership the certification program became firmly
established as a business rather than a voluntary effort.
This involved writing new study materials and
examinations, establishing a newsletter, hiring staff and
marketing the program. Enrollments increased
dramatically generating a substantial profit.
During her tenure as director, Mary was instrumental in
developing the Accredited and Certified Housing
Counselor programs. She also created the Institute for
Personal Finance with the support of the University of
Maryland. These tireless efforts were initially
accomplished for zero compensation, although later she
was paid a small salary. Mary J. Stephenson completed
her Ph.D. in Adult Education with a certificate in
Gerontology from the University of Maryland in 1981.
She holds the Certified Financial Planner and Chartered
Life Underwriter designations.
Mary has served on a number of national boards and
advisory committees such as the National Foundation for
Consumer Credit, American Express’ Credit Ready
Committee and AARP’s Financial Education Committee.
She is frequently interviewed by reporters in the national
media–most recently Money and U.S. New & World
Mary is an Associate Professor and Cooperative
Extension Service Specialist for the University of
Maryland. She is responsible for developing financial
management programs and training Extension faculty. In
this role she has she been invited to train faculty from
other states including Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware,
New York State, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
She is responsible for Maryland’s Financial Counseling
Program which has served as the foundation for similar
programs in numerous states. Mary has presented
hundreds of financial management workshops and
seminars throughout Maryland, the United States, and
Europe and authored numerous publications. She chairs
the University of Maryland’s highly acclaimed annual
Seminar for Financial and Housing Counseling