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Alumni Profiles Bob Manz & Lonny Corthell

Spring/Summer 2014

Five minutes into a chat with Bob Manz and Lonny Corthell, there’s a distinct feeling that one is conversing with a seasoned comedy team instead of two retired tax agents. These guys — who brandish one-liners with the best of them — are genuinely funny.

Their friends have compared the 1971 TU graduates to an old married couple, and with good reason. The lifelong pals literally grew up three blocks from one another, went to the same high school and university, and then eventually wound up working as auditors at the Ohio Department of Taxation for 30 years.

After they retired five years ago, the tall, slender, dry-witted Manz and the always-smiling, shorter, more portly Corthell chose to take their expertise on the road. These days, they travel the countryside on a serious mission to help nonprofit entities reclaim money owed to them by the government.

In keeping with their knack for the unusual, they offer their services for free — a rarity in this day and age.

“We work with organizations that are 501c3. That is the statute that establishes nonprofit charitable. We go in and look for sales tax on bills that the entity paid — sales tax paid in error,” Manz explains, adding that a 501c3 organization is exempt from such tax. The duo is allowed by law to study four years of bills. “Then we compile a spread sheet and copy all the bills.”

“That’s usually my job,” Corthell says with a good-natured laugh.

Manz remains complete straight-faced. “That’s because it’s not technical,” he quips.

It’s obvious these old friends enjoy working together. More importantly, they have a fervent desire to help others.

“This started when a mutual friend did a review of his church and he found some refundable money,” Manz says. “So I did a review for my church and I found some.”

It didn’t take long for Manz and Corthell to combine their efforts in the new endeavor.

“Most of the churches we did were pretty good on regular bills,” Corthell says. “Telephone bills and natural gas bills were the ones they were paying tax on.”

“And some of the staff credit cards were charging sales tax,” Manz adds. “Those are the three big areas.”

For the past five years, the duo has traveled from Ottawa, Ohio, to Vermilion in search of refunds for churches, a senior center, United Way agencies, a theater and even for Tiffin University. They say they are willing to help any 501c3 organization, no matter how large or small.

“The money we’ve found has ranged from $25 to over $16, 000,” Manz says.

“The thing is…if you find a lot of money, people tend to be embarrassed. But if they didn’t know it was happening, then they didn’t mess up. If we find them no money or very little, we say, ‘Atta boy! Good job!’ But sometimes people are disappointed because they didn’t get a big, fat refund check.”

Even though Manz and Corthell have helped more than 80 entities, they’d like to do more. So far, their only advertisement has been word-of-mouth.

“We’re former tax agents, primarily auditors. The big problem is, when you walk into a place as a cold call and say, ‘Hi, we’re here to help you,’ right away people are thinking, ‘What are they up to? What’s the catch?’” Manz laments. “That’s the big hurdle. We have to know someone who can get us in the door.”

But why do it for free?

The men agree that, after retirement, neither was ready for a front-porch rocking chair.

Manz explains that offering their services in a philanthropic capacity keeps them in touch with their former lives.

“We’ve never even talked about that (charging a fee). It’s just our nature,” he adds. “We like doing it. We like to help people.”

According to TU President Paul Marion, “We are proud of these two alums and the work that they are doing. They have certainly been very helpful for our University.”

“I have known Bob Manz since I was in grade school,” said Charles Ardner, TU Director of Budgets and External Accounts, “and I have known Lonnie for quite a while. Bob was friends with my parents. I just think he and Lonnie are two of the greatest guys ever. They are smart, funny, and giving. The student workers in the Business Office love these guys. They just don’t volunteer…they give the student workers real life experience. They have had a lot of discussions with our student workers about real life experience both personally and professionally.”

“When I walk across campus with them,” Ardner continued, “or we go eat in the dining hall, it is amazing to me how many students they know and how many students stop and talk to them. Every university would be proud to have these two as alumni, but they belong to us!