Rice University Logo
Rice University Logo

CFP® Instructors

Academic Director

Kathy Oakley, M.B.A., CPA, CFP®, is the former director of planning for the Houston office of Lincoln Financial Advisors. Prior to retiring from the financial services industry, she served as an internal resource to planners associated with Lincoln Financial Group and Sagemark Consulting. As a Regional Director of Planning, she was responsible for financial plans in the Texas and Louisiana region but also contributed to development of plans by the National Planning Group for Planners and Advisors across the United States. Prior to joining Lincoln Financial Advisors, Ms. Oakley (Hartin) served as vice president and chief financial planning officer with Kanaly Trust Company. She currently serves as a member of the Council on Education for the CFP Board of Standards, and is also a member of the Financial Planning Association. Ms. Oakley co-authored the Cases in Financial Planning, Analysis and Presentation text and Instructor Manual published by Money-Education, and is a contributing author to the Cases and Applications text published by Kaplan Schweser.  She previously served as a board member of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and on the Members in Industry Committee of the Houston Chapter of CPAs. Ms. Oakley holds a B.S. in Finance and an M.B.A. from the University of New Orleans. She formerly held a Texas Insurance license and securities licenses including the NASD Series 7 and 63. 

Program Instructors

Course instructors for Rice University's CFP® Certification Education program are experienced practitioners in the financial planning industry and have met Rice University's standard of quality.*  

James C. Abel, MSM, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, CRPC®, AEP®, AIF®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a Registered Investment Advisor Representative with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. in Saint George, Utah, Mr. Abel works primarily with members of the Medical and Dental community providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services. He started in the financial services industry in 1990 after serving eight years in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aircrewman. Professionally, he has worked in the banking, wire house, and now the independent channel and has seen the application of financial planning from several different modalities. An advocate of education, Mr. Abel holds several advanced designations along with FINRA Series 6, 7, 24, 63, and 65 licenses as well as Life, Health, and Disability insurance licenses from multiple states. He earned his B.S. Finance Degree from the University of Phoenix, and his M.S. Management with an emphasis in leadership from The American College. Much of his education he received online, so he is very comfortable in the online environment. Mr. Abel has served in many civic and industry leadership positions and enjoys giving back to the community and his profession whenever possible.

Joseph R. Birkofer, CFP®, is principal and founder of Legacy Asset Management in Houston. A consultant to individual and corporate clients for the evaluation of retirement plans, Birkofer also works with plan sponsors to improve communications, monitor investment performance and streamline administration. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a Registered Investment Advisor, he helps clients concentrate on financial planning and asset allocation. Prior to founding Legacy Asset Management, he served as a trust officer with Texas Commerce Bank. An active member of the community, Birkofer serves on local boards including The Periwinkle Foundation and The Houston Society of Financial Service Professionals. He has been published in or provided commentary for the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Business Journal, Benefits & Compensation Solutions and local radio and television shows. Mr. Birkofer earned his B.S. degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his M.B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin. He has several securities licenses, including the NASD Series 7, 24, 27, 63 and 65, as well as various insurance licenses. 

Jason Danziger, CFP®, CPA, is a vice president with Goldman Sachs, where he works with clients and their own advisors to help achieve long-term goals using a variety of income tax, gifting and estate planning techniques. Prior to his current role, he assisted clients in the Texas region with the construction of comprehensive financial plans and general income tax and estate planning advice. Before joining Goldman Sachs, Mr. Danziger was a financial planner and assistant vice president for a regional trust company in Houston. He began his career in public accounting, specializing in tax compliance for flow-through entities and oil and gas companies. He holds a B.S.B.A. in finance and accounting from Washington University of St. Louis and an M.P.A. in tax from The University of Texas at Austin, as well as the Series 7 and 66 licenses.

Andrea K. Freedman, CFP®, is an independent financial advisor for IMS Securities, where she conducts in-depth reviews of each client’s financial circumstances and goals. She has approximately 20 years experience specializing in financial planning and asset management. Her expertise extends into areas of retirement and education planning, asset allocation, investment selection and risk tolerance analysis. She has NASD Series 7, 63, 65 and 31 licenses. Ms. Freedman holds a B.S. in communications from The University of Texas at Austin. 

W. Ben Keel, III, CFP®, ChFC®, CFE®, CLU®, is a financial advisor with Financial and Insurance Consultants. He was named as one of the Top Financial Planners in the Nation by Consumers’ Research Council of America* in 2008 and 2009, and he was listed as a 2010 Five Star Wealth Manager® by Texas Monthly. Mr. Keel is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Houston Financial Planning Association. He is also a Certified Financial Educator teaching financial education classes through the non-Profit Heartland Institute of Financial Education for companies that would like to offer non-biased financial education to their employees. In addition, he teaches financial literacy classes to all branches of the United States Military as well as government employees. In the past, he has been a financial planner with American Express Financial Advisors, Fidelity Investments and his own firm. Mr. Keel served in the US Army and Texas Army National Guard branch detailed Airborne Infantry. He holds a B.B.A. in finance from Stephen F. Austin State University. 

Andrew Lewis, J.D., M.B.A., is a partner in Lewis and Lewis PLLC. He has approximately 15 years of experience as an attorney and judge, practicing in the areas of litigation, contract law, estate planning and probate, business planning, arbitration and mediation. Previously, he served as a county judge in Cobb County, Georgia, as well as deputy director for the Supreme Court of Georgia, Office of Dispute Resolution. He has experience teaching professionals in government, corporate and university settings. Mr. Lewis is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the State Bar of Georgia. He is board certified in Estate Planning and Probate by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He holds a JD from Tulane University, an M.B.A. from Emory University and a B.A. from Rice University.

Michael Middendorf, MS, CFP®, MPAS℠, CRPC® is the regional director of client services for Alpha Cubed Investments and also serves on the Investment Committee. He has been in the financial services industry since 1995 and earned designations as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Master Planner of Advanced Studies, and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor®. Mr. Middendorf has worked for Merrill Lynch, Ameriprise Financial and TD Waterhouse. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Kentucky and an M.S. from the College for Financial Planning in Colorado Springs.  Mr. Middendorf holds FINRA Series 7,63,66,9 and 10 licenses as well as various insurance licenses. He served on the Board of Directors for the Houston Financial Planning Association form 2013 to 2015.  He enjoys coaching youth sports non-profit organizations such as the South Montgomery YMCA and Nemesis Athletics.

Glynn D. Nance Jr., J.D., LL.M. is a founding partner of Nance & Simpson LLP, a law firm located in Houston, and has practiced law for more than 22 years. Mr. Nance focuses his practice on representing privately held companies and individuals in all forms of business and personal and estate planning transactions. He regularly helps his high-net-worth clients to form comprehensive estate plans, which includes tax planned wills, trusts, and business succession planning. Mr. Nance is Board Certified in Tax Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and holds a J.D. and an LL.M. from the University of Houston and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas.

Ali A. Nasser, CFP®, ChFC®, AEP®, is the Principal of Altruista LLC, an independent, comprehensive wealth-planning firm providing specialized services to high-net-worth business owners, corporate executives and professional athletes. Ali utilizes a unique planning process that integrates tax and legal components to an overall financial plan. The core areas of his practice are in estate, investment and retirement planning. He holds a degree in Finance from the University of Houston and is CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) Practitioner, Chartered Financial Consultant and an Accredited Estate Planner. Ali is a member of MDRT Top of the Table, Financial Planning Association, AALU, Strategic Coach, and Valmark Securities.

Jillian Nel, CFP®, is a financial planner at Legacy Asset Management in Houston. Through her comprehensive financial planning and risk management analysis, clients realize financial goals and better manage major life changes. Ms. Nel supports the retirement plan consulting practice of Legacy as an additional advocate and resource for retirement plan administrators and participants. Previously, Ms. Nel spent six years with Lincoln Financial Advisors. Ms. Nel is an active member of the Financial Planning Association, Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Sterling Group. She holds a B.S. in business administration from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has the Series 7 and 66 securities license and is licensed as a general lines insurance agent for the state of Texas.  

Kathy Oakley, M.B.A., CPA, CFP®, see academic director bio above.

Brian G. Tees, J.D., LL.M. is an associate attorney at the law firm of Nance & Simpson LLP, a boutique law firm located in the Galleria area of Houston, and has practiced law since 2006. Mr. Tees focuses his practice on representing individuals in all forms of estate planning, and individuals and businesses in a wide variety of commercial transactions. He regularly helps his high-net-worth clients to form comprehensive estate plans, which includes tax planned wills, trusts, family limited partnerships, and general business succession planning. Mr. Tees also prepares Federal Estate Tax Returns (IRS Form 706), including returns for taxable estates, and Federal Gift Tax Returns (IRS Form 709). He holds a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, an LL.M. (Taxation) from the University of Houston and a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University.

John L. Wilson, CFP®, CPA, helps high-net-worth families better achieve their financial goals using the six-step CFP financial planning process. He works with his clients to develop a holistic plan that integrates financial independence, investment, business and estate planning. He designs and implements multi-million dollar portfolios for his clients. Prior to his current role as an advisor to individuals, Mr. Wilson worked in various positions in the sales, marketing and trading of derivatives including swaps, caps, futures, options and other derivative instruments for several Fortune 500 companies. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Rice University.
*Licensed but not practicing.

David Zahn, CFP®, CPA, is an Assistant Vice President and Client Relationship Officer at Sentinel Trust Company and is responsible for the delivery of investment, planning, fiduciary and family office services to a select group of ultra-high net worth families. Prior to joining Sentinel, he worked in public accounting with a focus on taxation for high net-worth clients and closely held businesses. David earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston. He is also a graduate of Rice University’s CFP® Certification Education program and holds his CFP® license. David currently serves as Board Chairman for the Young Catholic Professionals of Houston and is a two-time Ironman finisher. 

**Instructors are subject to change. 

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP® (with flame design) in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements.