Visiting professors, Begley Breakfasts, leadership to the community and profession, continuing education programs, sponsored lectures, and professional workshops. These are just a few of the activities sponsored by the Dr. John P. Begley Endowed Chair of Accounting at Creighton during its almost 35 years of existence.
The Begley Chair of Accounting was created in 1977 and was named for John Patrick Begley, a Creighton graduate and a long-time professor at Creighton. In 1920, when the Creighton College of Commerce was created, John Begley was the first student enrolled. He earned two undergraduate degrees from Creighton, a Masters degree from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.
Dr. Begley began teaching at Creighton in 1924 following his first graduation from Creighton. He taught accounting and business classes at Creighton for 50 years. Near the time of his retirement, a team of Creighton alumni decided to create a chair in Dr. Begley’s name, saying that the funds from the endowed chair might be used to “provide for teaching equipment, or the salary of an accounting professor or guest lecturers in accounting.”
Previous Begley Chairholders and Chair Activities
For the first few years of the Chair’s existence, Begley funds were used to pay for a visiting professor to come to Creighton for one year. The intent was for this individual to share his or her accounting knowledge with Creighton students by teaching accounting classes and being involved in extracurricular student activities.
In 1980, Dr. Jack Krogstad, who still teaches accounting at Creighton, became the first permanent Begley Chairholder. Begley activities under Jack included the sponsorship of several Continuing Professional Education [CPE] workshops for Omaha-area practitioners, the creation of a Dr. John P. Begley Distinguished Service Award which was awarded to individuals who donated their services to the fields of accounting and/or accounting education, and the sponsorship of 28 Begley Breakfasts. The Begley Breakfasts, which were very popular with the Omaha community, brought prominent accounting, business, and civic speakers to address the Omaha business community. Begley Breakfast speakers included noted Washington columnist Jack Anderson; Sir Harold Wilson, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; John C. (Sandy) Burton, former Chief Accountant of the Securities & Exchange Commission; Dan Quayle, Former Vice-President of the United States; Roscoe Egger, Jr., at the time of his Begley visit, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service; and former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Jack stepped down as the Begley Chairholder in 1996.
In 1997, Dr. Thomas J. Purcell, III, who is still an accounting professor at Creighton, accepted the position of the Begley Chair. Tom’s emphasis for the chair was to increase exposure for accounting students to leaders in the profession and to leverage his involvement in accounting professional bodies by taking on leadership positions and expanding the awareness of the Creighton Accounting program beyond Nebraska. During his time as chair Tom sponsored lectures by and classroom interactions with noted guests, including Dr. Gerhard Mueller, Board Member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board; Bruce Rohde, Chairman and CEO of ConAgra Foods; Bob Elliott, Chairman of the Board of the AICPA; Lynn Turner, Chief Accountant of the SEC; and Donald Montgomery, Vice President, GE Power Systems. These individuals also interacted with the local accounting profession in informal settings sponsored by the Begley Chair.
As Begley Chairholder, Tom Purcell also assumed and successfully discharged significant leadership in community, professional and campus organizations, such as Chairman of the Board of the Nebraska Society of CPAs, member of the Tax Executive Committee of the AICPA, Chair of the Operations Task Force of the AICPA Tax Section, Chair of the Beta Alpha Psi National Strategic Planning Committee, President of the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities of Omaha, and Chair of the Creighton University Habitat for Humanity Steering Committee. Tom held the Begley Chair position until 2001.
In 2002, Dr. Mark Taylor, joined the Creighton accounting faculty and was appointed the Begley Chairholder. As the Begley chair, Mark was a very active researcher. He also spent one year in Washington, DC, as a Securities & Exchange Commission Accounting Academic Fellow. This position provided Mark with “an unparalleled opportunity to be directly involved in the work of the SEC and to gain insight into the SEC’s oversight and regulatory processes.” Mark also hosted several Begley Workshops for Creighton students and Omaha professionals, including a visit by Cynthia Cooper, former Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom. Ms. Cooper, who exposed the accounting fraud committed at WorldCom, was named one of three “People of the Year” by Time magazine in 2002. In 2009, Mark left Creighton to go to Case Western Reserve.
Current Begley Chair Activities
During the 2009-2010 academic year, the Begley Chair was unfilled. During the summer of 2010, Anthony Hendrickson, Dean of the Heider College of Business Administration [CoBA], talked with Dr. Tom Lewis about becoming the Begley Chair. They both agreed at the time that if Tom became the Dr. John P. Begley Endowed Chair of Accounting, he should direct Begley efforts in two areas:  try to do some things with faculty that might find their way into the classroom and make the classroom experience better or more meaningful for students and  conduct activities involving outreach to the community and alumni. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the Begley Chair sponsored five activities that met these goals.
For years, CoBA has historically sponsored a number of successful CoBA Research Forums during the academic year. Tom Lewis, as the Begley Chair, decided to host similar forums in the area of teaching. These programs were called “Teaching Conversations.”
During the spring, 2011 semester, two teaching conversations were sponsored by the Begley Chair. These were informal hour-long programs where CoBA faculty voluntarily attended. Attending faculty members were served a box lunch while a forum leader led a discussion on a topic of teaching.
Teaching forum #1, which was attended by between 20 and 25 faculty members, was led by Dr. Matt Seevers, CoBA marketing professor. Matt has several times been selected as the recipient of the “Faculty of the Year” award selected by the graduating senior class of CoBA, most recently for the 2009-2010 academic year. Matt’s conversation topic was “The Strength of Student Ties.” He discussed the advantages and disadvantages of building and using student ties [student interrelationships] in organizing and teaching his undergraduate and graduate marketing classes.
Teaching forum #2 was led by Ron Santoni, former Creighton law school professor who taught at Creighton for 26 years and is currently Managing Director of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, President of West Family Holdings, and on The Board of the Weitz Funds. Ron, while at the Creighton Law School, was a many-time recipient of the “Outstanding Professor” award selected by law school students. Ron’s conversation topic was “Talking about Teaching.” Ron discussed his overall teaching philosophy and how he approached teaching a typical law school course, including how he normally conducted his class each day. Approximately 20 faculty attended this forum.
Training for Teachers
Travel funds for the Heider College of Business are somewhat limited. Each year, faculty members are allotted an amount that may be used for approved travel. Because of the importance of research and a faculty member’s research record, this money is almost always used to attend a conference to present a research paper. In an effort to provide continuing professional education opportunities in the area of teaching for faculty, Begley Chair funds were allocated to send faculty members to a teaching conference of their choice.
On April 1, 2011, Dr. Matt Seevers, marketing professor, and Dr. Ken Washer, finance professor, attended a teaching conference in Milwaukee, WI sponsored by Harvard Business Publishing for Educators. The name of the conference was The Art & Craft of Discussion Leadership. The aim of the conference was to “help instructors fine-tune their approach to participant-centered learning.” Matt and Ken, who each gave the conference a very high rating, led a “Teaching Conversation” during the fall 2011 semester concerning some of the things they learned at this conference.
Books on Business Knowledge or Teaching Skills
A well-known quote of Charlie Munger’s is, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time – none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren (Buffett) reads – at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
CoBA faculty members spend an enormous amount of time reading, but it is often times reading that is narrowly related to their current research activities or their current teaching assignments. Tom Lewis decided to use part of the Begley Chair funds to buy each CoBA faculty and CoBA staff member a book for their summer reading list. The hope was that faculty members might find at least “one, small, operational piece of (information or) advice” that they could take into their classrooms during the 2011-2012 academic year.
To limit administrative time spent to order the books–Tom Lewis did not want Mary Pojar, long-time Accounting Department administrative assistant to have to order 40 different books for 40 people–faculty and staff were given a choice of one book from a list of eight that had been compiled. CoBA faculty could select their summer reading book from a list of three books on teaching or presentation skills or five books on business, including The Big Short (Inside the Doomsday Machine) by Michael Lewis; The One Thing You Need to Know…About Great Managing, Great Leading and Sustained Individual Success by Marcus Buckingham; and How the Mighty Fall…and Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins.
Higher Education and Scholarship in the Catholic and Jesuit Tradition
In 2007, the Creighton Academic Council approved a “Resolution on the Catholic-Jesuit Mission of Creighton University.” In that document, the council recommended that all faculty “shall be encouraged to deepen their understanding of and increase their competence in higher education and scholarship in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition” and also be “provided the means for gaining this competency…”
As a Begley activity, Tom Lewis decided to “provide the means” for gaining this competency by buying for each member of the CoBA faculty and CoBA staff a second book for summer reading, but this time concerning what “higher education and scholarship in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition” means. As part of this activity, Tom asked Fr. Tim Lannon, as the in-coming President of Creighton University, if he could recommend a book or two that members of the Heider College of Business might read that would “deepen their understanding of and increase their competence in higher education and scholarship in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition.” Fr. Lannon’s recommended two books, The First Jesuits by John O’Malley, S.J. and Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney.
All full-time faculty and staff for the 2011-2012 academic year were given the opportunity to select which book they wanted to have for themselves. The CoBA Ad Hoc Committee on the Catholic-Jesuit Mission is planning to schedule a number of activities during the 2011-2012 academic year related to the 2007 Resolution on the Catholic-Jesuit Mission of Creighton University. The plan, of course, is that the knowledge that faculty and staff gain from reading one of these books will make the outcomes of these activities more fruitful.
Accounting Department Newsletter
Many accounting departments from universities around the country–and certainly most accounting departments that have a program that is separately accredited as is the Creighton accounting program–publish an alumni newsletter once or twice a year. Over the 30 years that Tom Lewis has been at Creighton, the Accounting Department faculty has talked numerous times about how it should have or might have an alumni newsletter. The Department has always maintained a close relationship with many of its alumni, but it never has published an alumni newsletter.
As a Begley outreach activity, the Begley Chair sponsored the creation of an electronic Department Alumni newsletter. The plan for the newsletter is to be published twice a year, in November-December and in May-June. The first edition of this electronic newsletter was emailed to alumni in May of 2011.
This first newsletter consisted of six articles:  a department update from the Accounting Department Chairperson, Tom Shimerda;  news about the Beta Alpha Psi (honorary accounting fraternity) student activities for the 2010-2011 academic year;  an update on the Creighton accounting department faculty and staff;  news concerning Creighton students’ participation in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, the nationwide Internal Revenue Service program that provides tax preparation services free of charge to low- and moderate-income taxpayers;  an in-depth article on Tom Purcell, Professor of Accounting, who has been at Creighton as a student and faculty member for over 40 years; and  an alumni notes piece that related what has happened and what is currently happening in the lives of many of our Accounting Department alumni.
During the 33-year lifetime of the Begley Chair, the activities of the Chair have been extremely varied. It is the hope of Tom Lewis that the activities that were sponsored by the chair this past year would earn the approval of the generous Creighton alumni who financed the creation of the Dr. John P. Begley Endowed Chair of Accounting so many years ago.