LISTEN LIVE

USF School of Accountancy Receives $10 Million from Successful Graduate

Mar 8, 2015

Lynn Pippenger (center, in purple) poses with USF executives and officials and students from the USF Muma College of Business at a recent ceremony announcing her $10 million donation to the School of Accountancy.
Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

For the third time in six months, a University of South Florida business school is changing its name thanks to a multi-million dollar donation.

This time, it’s the USF Muma College of Business Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy, which now bears the name of a retired Raymond James executive and USF graduate who recently gave $10 million to the school.

Pippenger came from a family of accountants and bookkeepers – one ancestor was the first auditor, county clerk and justice of the peace for Cuyahoga County, Ohio, home to the then rural town of Cleveland.

Pippenger told an audience that filled the lobby of the Muma College of Business how she picked up the family business from an early age - but her education came from neighbors in the St. Petersburg neighborhood she was born and raised in.

"In the early years, my neighbors were an accountant and a stockbroker. The accountant showed me how to run an adding machine and taught me double-entry accounting and that debits must equal credits," Pippenger said. "The stockbroker had me follow stocks in the newspaper, one of which became my first investment and I still own that stock today."

USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem (l to r), USF System President Judy Genshaft, Pippenger and Raymond James Chairman Thomas James.
Credit Aimee Blodgett / USF Communications & Marketing

Another stock investment paid off for Pippenger - more on that in a moment.

She took a job in 1969 as a payroll clerk for a small St. Petersburg brokerage firm known as Raymond James Financial.

Company Chairman Thomas James said that Pippenger quickly climbed the ranks of his family’s firm, even having the foresight to bring in the company’s first computer.

"That (computer) had about a thousandth of the capacity of your smartphone," James told the crowd. "But what it significantly indicated was that we could automate our businesses and processes with firms outside the (Tampa Bay) area."

While working full-time at Raymond James, Pippenger was in night classes at St. Pete College and USF St. Petersburg. She says it took her most of 16 years to get her undergraduate degree, but a lot less time to receive her Executive MBA at USF’s Tampa campus in 1988.

Her hard work paid off in two ways - she eventually became Raymond James’ chief financial officer and treasurer before retiring in 2012 as senior vice president. At the same time, she was amassing a healthy nest egg from a company that was growing into an international investment power with over one billion dollars in annual revenue.

"Like a lot of small, unheard-of companies in the early days, as part of my compensation, I was paid in (Raymond James) stock - not a bad deal in hindsight but not so sure then," Pippenger said to the laughter of the crowd. 

Pippenger’s gift will help the School of Accountancy do a number of things.

School director Uday Murthy said one initiative is called “Certifying for Success.”

"We are going to be helping our students succeed on certification exams, the most prominent of which is the CPA, the certified public accountant," Murthy said. "But there are other certifications as well that we believe students can benefit from, such as the certified management accountant, the certified internal auditor, the certified information systems auditor. So there’s a range of certifications that our students can earn to help make them more employable in the marketplace."

A second initiative focuses on helping students prepare for careers.

"And this has to do with a variety of career development initiatives, such as resume workshops, interviewing workshops, workshops to build their communication skills, helping students land internships with local Tampa Bay area companies," Murthy said. "So all the things that need to be done outside of just the classroom to get our students ready for the workforce."

Dean Moez Limayem said gifts like Pippenger’s and last year’s $25 million donation from Tampa philanthropists Pam and Les Muma will help his college reach a goal that he’s been pushing for since joining the school three years ago.

"I think this will get us even closer to our dream to have every student admitted at the Muma College of Business to have a great job after graduation, a great job in the area we train them in and with a competitive salary," Limayem said. "With this philanthropy and this generosity, we’re going to build the necessary infrastructure that will help our students beyond the classroom with their professional development and their career readiness."

Pippenger’s gift brings her total donations to USF to over $22 million.

School officials add that they believe her donation means it's the first school of accountancy anywhere in the world named solely after a woman. But don’t call Pippenger a role model for women in the industry.

"Women have been accountants for a long time and I think some of our best ones are women," she said. "They're more detailed-oriented than some of the guys."

And when she looks back at her time as a student at USF, Pippenger said she never thought she'd one day have her name on the School of Accountancy.

"But it’s a good place for it," she said with a laugh. "That’s what I basically did most of my life was accounting."