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IMA Life: Always There For Me

By Randy Thomas, CPA
June 1, 2015

In 1987 I was a young accountant at Deere and Company. My supervisor had just been elected president of his local chapter of NAA (National Association of Accountants), IMA’s predecessor. He convinced me that joining was a good career move even though I didn’t know much about the organization. At my first meeting, I was pleased to hear interesting and informative presentations, meet other accountants who shared common interests, and earn CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credits to maintain my CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certification.


Then I learned about the IMA Chapter Competition. Each year, IMA chapters earn points throughout the year for doing things that make them more successful, and the top 15 chapters in each division earn banners. Well, my boss led the chapter in accumulating enough points to earn a banner that year. I was just pleased with the quality of the program content and the friendly companionship, so I continued my membership for the next 12 years. But in 1998, I had begun pursuing my MBA, and my only child joined nearly every sport and the Boy Scouts. Enter another phase of my life: coach-dad and scout-leader-dad. Unfortunately, it was impossible to attend chapter meetings, so I became inactive for a while.


In 2001, I moved from accounting to quality engineering at Deere. But to retain my thirst for accounting, I also began teaching night classes at a couple of universities as an adjunct professor. By 2006, my son had become an Eagle Scout and had narrowed his sports activities to baseball. My coaching career was also winding down as high school sports have their own coaches, not dads! Also around this time I took an early retirement from Deere to pursue a full-time job as an accounting professor. These changes encouraged me to get back into IMA.


So after a 10-year period of inactivity in IMA, I returned to Cedar Falls Holiday Inn, where I had attended my last chapter meeting. I felt like I had returned home! Our chapter was as strong as ever. This time around I decided to get more involved and help our chapter continue to thrive. First, I was elected a director at large. A couple of years later, I really got in deep! My university awarded me a summer 2012 stipend to attend IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. That’s something every member needs to experience at least once—800 accountants all in one place! That same year the chapter board offered me the chapter president role! I had never held any of the VP jobs, but they assured me that the chapter would run like a well-oiled machine. It did!


Now my office proudly sports a 25-year membership certificate, a chapter president certificate, and a desk clock recognizing my two years as chapter president. And we did win a banner during my tenure! It was our chapter’s seventh in an eight-year period. I also now understand the significance of earning points and banners: to drive you to provide an interesting, entertaining program schedule that makes members proud to belong to IMA!

Randy Thomas, CPA, is an associate professor of accounting at Upper Iowa ­University and past president of IMA’s Waterloo-Cedar Falls Chapter. You can reach him at professordeere@gmail.com.
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