BBA 1973 (Accounting)
Resident Partner, Banks, Finley, White & Co.
Gregory C. Ellison, BBA 1973, was named 2009 Outstanding Alumnus by the Tippie accounting department, and he was inducted into Beta Alpha Psi as the chapter's first honorary member.
In 1984, Ellison was appointed by then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris to the Georgia State Board of Accountancy.
"My time on the state board was a very rewarding experience. It helped me internalize the meaning of 'public' in certified public accountant," explains Ellison.
"Because people rely on CPAs, accounting professional bear an awesome responsibility," he says. "And we operate under a code of ethics to help us live up to that responsibility. We must always remain committed to adhering to that code in the public interest. When we have had problems in our profession, it is because we have strayed from that sense of public responsibility. To those who are just embarking on an accounting career, I share this advice: Enter the profession with a sense of integrity and commitment to high ethical standards."
Over the nine years on the state board, Ellison served on several committees and as both vice chairman and chairman. His most significant contribution during his tenure was chairing the Report Monitoring Committee. This committee developed legislation and implemented Georgia's first quality review program for CPA firms.
Making a Career Choice
When he first stepped onto The University of Iowa campus in 1969, Ellison considered a career in law. He admits he'd never heard of a CPA and knew nothing of the accounting profession. During a freshman economics course, Ellison became enticed with potential career opportunities in business. A year later, he declared accounting his major.
In the fall of 1970, while reading in the College of Business library, he recalls an article in the Journal of Accountancy entitled "The Black Minority in the CPA Profession." He remembers the article pointed to the need for the accounting profession to make a stronger commitment to recruit more Black Americans into the profession. A new organization had been created to help in that effort—the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).
"Reading that article was an important factor in my decision to declare accounting as a major and ultimately make accounting my chosen career," he says.
After graduating from The University of Iowa in 1973, Ellison relocated to Atlanta and joined the public accounting firm of KPMG. A NABA chapter had not yet been established in Atlanta. So in 1975, Ellison became a founding member of the Atlanta Chapter of NABA where he remained actively involved, locally and nationally, for 10 years.
Ellison has also dedicated his time to serving the community through involvement in numerous civic boards in the Atlanta area including Families First as treasurer; Atlanta Partners for Education as chair of the strategic planning committee; Alliance Theater Company as committee co-chair to increase African American exposure and involvement in the arts; and as accounting director for eight years for the Atlanta United Negro College Fund telethon. He is a member of the 2003 class of Leadership Atlanta and also serves on the board of First Children's Finance based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
For the past 30 years, Ellison has worked for Banks, Finley, White & Co., Certified Public Accountants, the largest minority owned CPA firm in the southeast. Eighteen of those years, he has served as resident partner of the Atlanta office. Within the firm, he provides leadership in long-range planning processes and shares responsibility for the firm's quality control system. Ellison's past responsibilities with the firm included audit and professional development partner roles for the firm's four offices located in Birmingham, Jackson (Miss.), Memphis, and Atlanta.
Ellison and his wife, Jeannette, BS 1973, have been married 36 years and have two sons and three grandchildren. As a devoted husband and father, he shared this valuable advice in his acceptance speech, "Work every day, but work to live, don't live to work. Play and remain accountable and accessible to those you love."