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IMA Chairs: Memories from Volunteer Leaders

By Kathy Williams
June 1, 2019
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A look at IMA’s history wouldn’t be complete without hearing from IMA Chairs about their memories of the organization as well as their terms in office. IMA is grateful for their work and for their dedication to the association and to the profession of management accounting.

 

Louis Vlasho, 1982-1983

Summing up my year as IMA Chair isn’t easy. At the time, I was the youngest person to serve as IMA Chair, and I was the first one to hold the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification when I was installed. Four significant milestones occurred as the result of much work by members and staff: (1) IMA introduced an historic Statement on Management Accounting developed by its Committee on Management Accounting Practices, “Objectives of Management Accounting,” that would have an impact on the development of management accounting for many years; (2) “The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Management Accountants” were published; (3) IMA joined the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), and the Management Accounting Committee of IFAC accepted and used IMA’s “Definition of Management Accounting” as its own worldwide definition; (4) we finalized the decision to move IMA’s headquarters from New York City to Montvale, N.J., and I signed the papers. Most of all, I want to give credit to the IMA Chairs who preceded me and those who followed for their work and dedication.

 

Donald W. Baker, 1991-1992

The preparation for my year and my vice president team members began by all of us agreeing that we would build on the “Bold Step” taken by NAA (National Association of Accountants) to change its name to IMA, reflecting a more professional image. We first determined that the team would be known as “Baker’s Bold Brigade” followed by adopting “Four Bold Steps” to become change agents to move management accounting forward professionally. Those “Four Bold Steps” were: (1) become a CMA; (2) implement an IMA-structured, career-oriented continuing education program and increase participation in the programs; (3) renew the Bold Step Research Program that produced the Bold Step books; and (4) increase the Institute’s visibility and influence in the financial, regulatory, academic, and legislative communities.

 

Robert W. Liptak, 1992-1993

This is a note of congratulations and thank you in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of IMA.

It was at the 50th Anniversary of IMA that I became an active member and more than 40 years ago that I had the fortune to be a chapter president (New York). Then and from that time on, I met wonderful people from all over the country who shared enthusiasm for the organization. Such friendships last forever.

 

The 100-year journey for IMA has left a footprint wide and deep on the profession of management accounting. Those of us who served did our best even though we stumbled from time to time. It was the wisdom of the professional staff that helped make the stumbles mostly propel us in the right direction.

 

Pam Prinz Stewart, 1998-1999

One of my most memorable events was a symposium held in Albuquerque, N.M. I presented along with the chair of the AICPA (a woman) and the president of the NAWA (National Association of Women Accountants). The three women at the top of their respective organizations posed together for pictures and then had an excellent lengthy private meeting where we discussed women’s issues in the accounting profession. I couldn’t help but smile and think, “We have arrived.”

 

Also, during my four-year commitment (remember the Office of the CEO) I traveled consistently, representing IMA across the country and even abroad. It was exhausting at times but exhilarating, too. I had feared some backlash from taking on the role as the first woman IMA Chair, but I was always greeted with professionalism and respect. And I have always valued the confidence IMA had in me to handle the role.

 

C.S. “Bud” Kulesza, 1999-2000

During my tenure, IMA redesigned and relaunched its website, gaining the ability to accept online credit card payments. Most importantly, we became a founding member of the XFMRL, now known as XBRL, thanks to early engagement of Liv Watson. In September 1999, through its Professor-in-Residence Keith Russell, IMA developed its first CMA curriculum. Louisiana State University (LSU) was the first university to partner with IMA in offering it. We now have a more robust program of IMA-endorsed schools and CMA curriculum. The 1999 Practice Analysis of Management Accounting was completed and issued. This research work is still referred to as one of the most comprehensive works of its kind.

 

The engagement of members and the solicitation of their input were key concerns. Through the issuance of an IMA two-cent piece, members were encouraged to provide their “two cents” of input. More than 5,000 coins were distributed as members participated.

 

In January 2000, I took on a dual role of Chair and interim executive director (pro bono), serving in those roles until we appointed an executive director shortly before the June 2000 Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Staff members at all levels were invited to attend the Conference for a day, and IMA provided bus transportation.

 

Membership programs slowed our losses but did not reverse them. Expenses were curtailed, reductions in staff were made, and a Corporate Alliance Partnership (CAPS) was initiated with ongoing levels of sponsorship that brought in more than $1 million in revenue at a much-needed time.

 

It has been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Many of the issues we face today we have faced before. IMA has never had a problem with the identification of issues and planning. Execution of plans was more difficult because of the lack of continuity of volunteer leadership. Thankfully, as we have evolved over the last 10 years to a staff-led organization, continuity of responsibility and direction has led to the great results we have had in membership, cost control, and strategic focus.

 

Frank C. Minter, 2000-2001

I had the great privilege of serving as IMA Chair 20 years ago—the first year that ended in the 21st Century. My fondest memories during that time are of the members I met during my three years of visits to chapter and council meetings, which also allowed me to visit with some of the future leaders of IMA.

 

Any success I had in the business world resulted from my identifying qualified people, placing them in jobs of increasing responsibility, and then turning them loose to perform. One such instance in IMA I remember clearly. I was speaking at the Wild West Council meeting and was introduced to a young professor from the University of Wyoming who expressed a passion for developing management accounting students. In 2001, student chapters and an annual student conference were in the early stages. Today, both are significant activities. I believe much of the credit for this should go to Sandy Richtermeyer, that young professor. She subsequently progressed through IMA as Professor-in-Residence, chair of the Student Committee, then IMA Chair.

 

This is just one example where dedication, energy, and ability paid excellent dividends. My best to IMA at 100 from your “double eight” former Chair.

 

Kim R. Wallin, 2003-2004

Sometimes you have to shake things up to create changes that are needed, and that happened in my year as IMA Chair. I ran for Chair from the floor because the organization was still being run the way it had been for years, and I believed it was time to change. My main concentration was on moving IMA forward and not doing things the same way we had been doing them. Because IMA started doing things differently, we became better known in the accounting community.

 

For example, we started to emphasize certified members more. The content of the CMA exam was changed to maintain the excellence and the relevance of the exam. The profession was changing, so the exam content needed to change.

 

IMA started hiring new people and changing management of the organization. It was the beginning of a more staff-led organization. In fact, Jeff Thomson started in research and brought it back to the forefront. All this and more helped IMA become what we are today.

 

Larry R. White, 2004-2005

In my first column as IMA Chair, I called for more focus on management accounting and a new focus on creating value from inside an organization. I made the observation: “…management accounting has been noticeably without champions for many years languishing as an accounting back bencher.” On this 100th Anniversary, I am pleased that I wouldn’t make this observation today. IMA has more than 125,000 members around the world. The largest accounting organizations in the world are now more focused on management accounting than ever before…and chasing IMA’s lead! Many nations, China in particular, are extremely focused on improving the management accounting skills of their professional accountants. It is increasingly clear that lasting economic value isn’t the result of looking good in capital markets—it’s the result of exceptional operations, risk management, analysis, strategy, and execution…the skills management accountants bring to the table.

 

Looking back over my time as Chair, I am most satisfied with the direction we took in hiring a president and CEO for IMA. We worked hard to find a committed, enthusiastic, and innovative management accountant, and that has continued. I believe this action began IMA’s move toward its current growth and success with the CMA under Jeff Thomson’s leadership. My message for the future is to keep innovative management accountants clearly in the forefront of IMA leadership with our volunteers and with the IMA staff.

 

Carl S. Smith, 2005-2006

My most memorable event was the first Dubai Conference. I remember that conference like it was yesterday. To me, it was where our global operations started. Up until then, we were half in, half out. With the success of that first conference, we really started to focus on the world. The conference was held at the JW Marriott (the one thing that made it look U.S.), but aside from that it was a great technical program. I remember Larry White, Sandy Richtermeyer, Paul Sharman, and I spoke in technical sessions. The participants were just about 100% from the Middle East. They really valued our program, and I spoke to a number of them about the CMA program. It was very clear that they wanted to make the conference a regular event. The one thing, which is my personal view, was that there were very few women at the conference.

 

John B. Pollara, 2007-2008

Being IMA Chair for one year greatly restricts the possibilities of any individual. The most one can hope to accomplish is to complete initiatives started by others and to start initiatives for others to complete in the future. As a CEO of my own business, I realized early on that the most value I could add to my business was to choose the right people. I am especially proud of two decisions during my term. The first was choosing Bud Kulesza to chair our leadership initiative that culminated in the Leadership Academy. He was definitely the right guy for the job. The second was the management change that placed Jeff Thomson at the helm of our organization. I don’t have to go into a lot of detail about his accomplishments. Needless to say, Jeff and his team have accomplished nothing short of miracles in the last 11 years. I am happy to have been part of our journey.

 

Frederick E. Schea, 2008-2009

When I was IMA Chair, I had the great opportunity to visit China where our CMA credential had just been introduced a year or two earlier. We began our trip in Shanghai, then went to Xi’an, and ended in Beijing. I traveled with two of our China staff and Jim Gurowka, all terrific IMA traveling companions. We visited universities, state-owned enterprises, multinational companies, and learning providers. Several times I was a speaker at a symposium or meeting. I particularly remember a symposium I attended in Xi’an at a university, and afterward we joined a group of professors for dinner. The selection was amazing, and they of course wanted me to try everything, which I did. Their hospitality and congeniality were contagious, and we had a great time.

 

IMA and my CMA credential have also been special to me, and the friends and associates I have met over the years are the best part of my long association with the Institute of Management Accountants.

 

John M. Brausch, 2009-2010

I think my most memorable moment as IMA Chair was the board meeting in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The year before in Montvale, many people were concerned about the weather, but it was fine. A year later, we found ourselves snowed under in Myrtle Beach, which had its first measurable snow in a decade. Everyone still brings that to my attention.

 

Being more serious, I spent a great deal of time working on the CMA program. For 12 years before becoming Chair, I served on the Exam Review Committee, as a member of the ICMA® Board of Regents, and then Chair of the Board of Regents. The year I was IMA Chair, we changed the exam from its old four-part format to the new two-part format. I had some pretty tough chapter and council meetings trying to sell the notion that this was a good idea, but under the leadership of the ICMA team, the CMA has certainly taken off since then.

 

Sandra B. Richtermeyer, 2010-2011

My most memorable moment was being Chair when we established the IMA office in Zurich and worked on the business case to expand in Europe. I was able to go to Germany, Switzerland, and Turkey, and I learned so much about how the management accounting profession and the CMA were evolving there. I realize we are much further along today, but it was great to see how many of the hopes and dreams we had for global expansion evolved and how many of them came to fruition so we could be the organization we are today.

 

I also enjoyed making my many chapter and council visits and learning about the leadership, governance, and evolving role of our chapters and how so many of them were able to transform and grow into key groups that advance IMA’s mission and strategy.

 

Brian L. McGuire, 2011-2012

I have four top memories of my time as IMA Chair: (1) signing a memorandum of understanding with ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) at the Annual Conference in Las Vegas in 2012 that led to ongoing research with them, especially the quarterly Global Economic Conditions Survey and other projects; (2) presenting CMA certificates to the first women CMAs in Saudi Arabia and seeing how proud and excited they were to become CMAs and receive their certificates; (3) being the first Chair to visit all four of IMA’s offices in a year: China, Switzerland, New Jersey, and UAE/Dubai; and (4) as incoming Chair, presenting my dad with his 50-year membership certificate at the Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla.

 

John C. Macaulay, 2012-2013

During my term as Chair, several activities related to innovation were initiated. The largest of these was the Innovation Council, which was composed of several IMA staff members who evaluated innovation ideas from other staff members and could fund pilot projects to test the concept of the suggestion. This effort was the result of activities that had been initiated in the preceding years. The Planning and Development Committee began exploring with staff the idea and impact of innovation on organizations during the prior year when I was the committee chair. The Innovation Council operated for about four years, considering and testing several ideas.

 

I believe this effort had several positive effects on IMA. First, it encouraged staff members to focus on innovative ideas. Second, it allowed the ideas to be tested prior to implementation. And, third, it indicated to staff that their input on the activities of IMA and their positions was valued and encouraged. A couple of the innovations that germinated during this time were the YP/Student Leadership Experience, where young professionals and students had the opportunity to attend the Global Board of Directors meeting so they could see the governance process and so IMA could identify and mold future leaders, and digital badging and digital credentialing, which enabled members to share their credentials via social media.

 

William F. Knese, 2013-2014

A few thoughts: I led a Global Board of Directors composed of dedicated volunteers who demonstrated an engaged oversight and strategic vision for IMA and the management accounting profession. Teamed with enlightened leadership and organizational professionals, IMA executed its strategy. While traveling to many chapters throughout the globe, I witnessed the strength of our IMA culture in action. And significant during my year as Chair was the continued growth in IMA membership while maintaining a robust organizational stewardship.

 

Joseph A. Vincent, 2014-2015

Most memorable was being named Chair with the opportunity to utilize my 40 years of IMA leadership experience gathered at the local, regional, and global levels to work with IMA staff and so many dedicated IMA volunteers on providing increasing value to the association and our profession.

 

I also really enjoyed writing my monthly column for Strategic Finance magazine. My last one was called “The Journey Accelerates,” and it certainly did for IMA, as membership has grown by almost 70% since 2015.

 

The importance of education and the demand for the CMA are huge today. Earlier, when I was Regents Chair, we proposed to change the CMA exam to a rigorous two-part exam with a more focused body of knowledge tested to a deeper level. When combined with social media awareness, it encouraged more exam takers, leading to our growing membership numbers and increased awareness of the management accounting profession.

 

Benjamin R. Mulling, 2015-2016

My most memorable moment was at the IMA Annual Conference the year I was Chair. My children came to the Conference for the first time and were able to spend Father’s Day with me. When I saw how the staff, board, and other members treated my family as if they were their own, it really sank in to me how much of a family we are in IMA. We support our members, we grow with our members, and we learn with our members. It was quite an awesome experience to see how literally we all take that message and the care that was shown for my family. It really hit home how special that time and this organization are to me, personally and professionally.

 

Marc P. Palker, 2016-2017

In my year as Chair, IMA discovered television. We produced our first television commercial, and, believe it or not, it involved a tattoo. Go figure. At the Annual Conference in Denver, Colo., we reconfigured our educational offerings to align more with the CMA exam content, and we celebrated achieving 90,000 members.

 

Alex C. Eng, 2017-2018

As a former Chair, one of my most memorable events is a milestone that we should all be proud of. Each one of us shared in its efforts, especially the many Presidents and Chairs before me, through the hard work and sacrifice of our many boards of directors: In January 2018, IMA welcomed our 100,000th member.

 

Looking back at my time as your Chair, in meeting thousands of members across the globe, the most amazing memories I will carry are how IMA and our flagship CMA credential have changed lives: An Egyptian student is the first university graduate in his family and the first credentialed professional (CMA), and a young professional in China started her career as a laborer on the factory floor and now is a CMA working at one of the world’s largest insurers. Among many, many other examples, I was fortunate to hear the testimonies of families changed, destinies altered, and the pride and satisfaction of seizing (and enjoying) true professional opportunity.

 

Ginger R. White, 2018-2019

As my year as Chair ends, I am quite hopeful that the next 100 years for women in the accounting and finance profession will be much more equal to their male counterparts in terms of pay and C-suite opportunities. The challenges causing these inequalities exist no matter where our women IMA members live and work.

 

The Women’s Accounting Leadership Series is helping share insights from women who have excelled and made it to the executive levels in their companies and organizations. In most cases, this is due to breaking with family and societal traditions. In Jordan and India, I learned that some successful women were encouraged by their fathers to leave their country to seek education in the U.K. or U.S. These women have returned to their home countries to serve in very large corporations or high-ranking governmental roles.

 

The four critical success factors for them were (1) higher-level education and certifications, (2) hard work and long hours to establish their careers before starting a family, (3) extreme drive to make their companies and organizations successful, and (4) the women were not yet married or had spouses who supported them when opportunities came to take on new, challenging roles even when it required a move to another location. The future looks bright for all management accountants…regardless of gender!


100 Years and Counting: A History of the Institute of Management Accountants, the comprehensive history of the most influential association of management accountants, is available for download or purchase at https://ima100years.org/book/. The book includes a complete chronological list of IMA chairs with photos.

 

Kathy Williams is editor-in-chief emeritus of Strategic Finance. You can reach her at kwilliams@imanet.org.
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