Timothy J. Golden, J.D. ’76: Building Solutions

An alumnus uses his accounting and legal expertise to aid rural villages in Malawi during his retirement.

Left image: Carol and Timothy J. Golden, J.D. ’76 ; Right Image: Timothy J. Golden, J.D. ’76
Left image: Carol and Timothy J. Golden, J.D. ’76 ; Right Image: Timothy J. Golden, J.D. ’76

Timothy J. Golden, J.D. ’76 smiles when he recommends retirement “to anybody who’s interested,” and if more people spent their retirement following his example, they might be smiling, too.

Since retiring in 2017, Golden, the former tax planning manager for Syngenta, a Swiss-based agribusiness company, has chosen to spend a good chunk of his “golden years” serving others. He has a seat on the advisory board and the finance committee of Our Lady of Angels, a regional Catholic grade school near his home. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, he and his wife, Carol, began volunteering with their county’s medical reserve corps, serving at food banks, drive-through flu shot clinics, drive-through COVID-testing sites and, later, COVID vaccine clinics.

But it’s his work with Villages in Partnership (VIP) that gets him talking. VIP is a development organization that partners with rural villages in Malawi to combat the root causes of extreme poverty, helping to provide clean water, food security, education, health care, improved infrastructure and economic development to thousands of people in the developing world.

“We’re not trying to hand people a solution, we’re trying to help them build a solution,” Golden said. “Sustainability is very important.”

Future Returns

Sustainability is a value that runs throughout his life — consistently meeting present demands with an eye toward maximizing future returns on investment. In high school, he took enough advanced placement courses at Scranton Preparatory School to begin his studies at the University with a “generous amount” of credits under his belt. As an accounting major, he found that he loved anything tax-related, and he decided to pursue that passion by making a career of it. He met Carol on a trip to London the University had opened up to non-University students, and the two began dating.

After attending law school at Villanova, he began working in the tax department of Arthur Andersen, then one of the “big eight” accounting firms. He married Carol, and they had three children, Brian, Kevin and Sean. He eventually landed at Syngenta, where, as tax planning manager, he worked closely with the IRS on a special real-time auditing basis.

As retirement approached, he took a piece of advice from a book called How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free and created a list of 50 things he might be interested in doing with his free time, which included volunteering. After Carol, a retired nurse, participated in a medical mission trip to Malawi with VIP, she urged him to get involved, and he soon found himself traveling to Malawi as a member of VIP’s medical support staff. The experience moved him so deeply that he returned the following year.

“There is a psychic reward that comes with volunteering,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re changing lives.”

"A 12-year-old not being able to see is really devastating. They’d put the glasses on, and there would be a lot of big smiles because, suddenly, they could see clearly."

Since its founding in 2008 and its incorporation as a 501(c)3 charity in 2012, VIP has attempted to do just that by partnering with 26 villages in Malawi’s Sakata region, a place where the majority of its 19,000 inhabitants make a living as subsistence farmers. Although VIP often acts as a catalyst for change in these communities, drilling wells, running clinics and building schools, it encourages sustainability by providing training and employment opportunities to the local population so the wells, clinics and schools will continue to prosper.

“When we build the clinics and the schools, the villagers participate by providing sand, providing bricks, providing labor,” Golden said. “They’re involved in the whole process.

“We’re not trying to ... solve all their problems, we’re just trying to improve their lives a little bit, and I think that’s what Villages in Partnership is succeeding in doing, slowly.”

decorative left column photo

Global Vision

On his second trip, Golden and a Malawian teacher helped distribute scores of eyeglasses to villagers who had been prescreened by a Malawian ophthalmologist. Using an eye chart, an eyeglass assembly kit and an adjustable pair of goggles provided to VIP by Global Vision 2020, Golden and the teacher were able to custom-build eyeglasses that, in some cases, drastically improved the quality of life of their clients.

“A 12-year-old not being able to see is really devastating,” he said. “They’d put the glasses on, and there would be a lot of big smiles because, suddenly, they could see clearly. “These are very rural village ... dirt floors, no electricity, no running water — there is no way they have access to glasses. So, this was a way to help.”

Since returning from that trip, Golden was asked to join VIP’s board of trustees as its treasurer, a position that allowed him to put his lifetime of experience in accounting to good use, and he believes there are more skilled people out there waiting for a similar opportunity to serve others.

“I think people want to be asked to help,” he said. “I think a lot of people conceptually are interested in volunteering, but they don’t know what to do.”

Although VIP has not been able to send a mission trip to Malawi since the start of the pandemic, it has continued to serve the Malawian people through its virtual fundraisers.

Golden will continue to use his accounting skills in the service of others, and he hopes current students recognize how powerful sustainable financial planning can be.

“Personal finance is something you have to teach yourself and then apply early and often,” he said with a smile. “Retirement can come early, if you do it right, and early retirement is not a bad thing.”

Scroll to Top