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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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May 7, 2021

50 Years of Giving Back

Curtiss Shows Enduring Commitment to School of Accountancy
50 Years of Giving Back
Jeffrey Curtiss, ’70 & ’71, recognizes the role his business and law degrees played in his career success, and he chose to give back to the School of Accountancy to give others similar opportunities. He and his wife, Margaret, continue supporting transformational educational experiences through the Jeffrey and Margaret Curtiss School of Accountancy Fund for Excellence, which contributes to scholarships, student trips and the school’s greatest needs.

Jeffrey Curtiss, ’70 & ’71, began his journey in business learning the nuances of accounting while as an undergraduate student at the College of Business. He recognized the part his education played in his career success and started giving back to his alma mater after receiving his juris doctorate from Nebraska College of Law the following year.

“It seemed natural to me to give back to the institution that helped me achieve the success I had,” said Curtiss, who believes the combination of a business and law degree differentiated him from other graduates and presented him opportunities he otherwise would not have received. “My first gift to the university was in 1972 after I joined the Lincoln law firm of Nelson, Harding, Marchette, Leonard and Tate.”

A family lineage of Nebraska graduates and Husker pride also played a part in his decision to support his alma mater nearly 50 years ago. More than 100 years ago his grandfather, Herbert, received a juris doctorate from Nebraska in 1915. Over the years, his father, sister, son, uncles, cousins and nephew all graduated from Nebraska.

The family’s story in Nebraska began in the 1880s when Curtiss’ great-grandfather left Ohio and moved to Bassett, Nebraska. Curtiss grew up in Plainview, Nebraska, located in the northeast part of the state, and eventually made his way to Nebraska Business. He had a passion to play football at Nebraska but ultimately saw his aptitude for accounting played more to his strengths.

Curtiss received mentoring during his undergraduate studies from Dr. Robert Raymond, the first director of the School of Accountancy, who guided the program between 1968-76. Raymond helped Curtiss find his niche in the world of accounting.

“You get satisfaction from doing what you do well,” Curtiss said. “Find what that is and become the best you can be at it. It wasn’t football for me, but rather accounting, tax and legal. I passed the CPA exam in 1969 after completing my business coursework. I graduated fourth in my class when I got my business administration degree at Nebraska.”

Significant career moves presented Curtiss with opportunities to make a difference in business. During 1973-79, he served in tax and international treasury positions for Monsanto Company. During the ’80s, he moved to G.D. Searle & Co., where he worked in positions as assistant treasurer–international, vice president of corporate development and vice president of finance. Prior to retirement in 2006, he served as senior corporate vice president and CFO of The Coleman Company, Heritage Media Corporation, Browning-Ferris Industries and Service Corporation International for 18 years.

Early in his career while working at Monsanto in St. Louis, Curtiss met his wife, Margaret, who grew up across the Mississippi River in the town of Granite City, Illinois. They eventually established the Jeffrey and Margaret Curtiss School of Accountancy Fund for Excellence.

“My agreement with the Nebraska Foundation is dated January 19, 2000. I initially funded it with a $108,375 contribution,” said Curtiss, who had received a significant payment in stock as the result of a business sale. “I wanted the director of the School of Accountancy at the College of Business to have some funds they could use in a discretionary manner.”

Around the same time, Curtiss was setting up the excellence fund, he also made what he considers his most significant accomplishment in business.

“I played a key financial role in helping Service Corporation International survive its financial crisis in 2000 when I became CFO. It was overextended, and its stock price went as low as $1.50 per share. Today, it is the largest death care provider in North America, and its stock price is over $30 per share. Tom Ryan, the current CEO, once worked in finance areas that reported to me,” he said.

Curtiss also worked to broaden his skill set and push himself to new areas of excellence even late in his career.

“One challenge I took on was becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) at the age of 58 in 2006. The certification requires passing three difficult tests and having four years of financial experience. I was an officer or board member of CFA Houston for more than 10 years, serving twice as president of CFA Houston. It has more than 1,000 members today. Essentially, I did a career change – from a CFO to an investor, which is what I do now,” said Curtiss, who continues to reside in Houston.

Curtiss also served as member of the KBR board of directors between 2006-18. The company generates $5 billion of revenue and is a NYSE listed global provider of differentiated professional services. He served as chairman of the company Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee for one year and chaired its Audit Committee for 10 years. One of his key roles included evaluating the KBR IPO and split-off from Haliburton, and committees undertaking three internal investigations including a 2013 financial restatement. He also served on KBR’s Compensation and Social Responsibility Committees at various times during his tenure.

Dr. Aaron Crabtree, director of the SOA, praised Curtiss’ work and his commitment to giving back throughout his career. He emphasized how Curtiss continues to transform educational experiences of Nebraska students.

“Jeff has been a great supporter of the school,” said Crabtree. “His contributions have touched all parts of the academic enterprise, including funding data, scholarships, student trips and our graduation events. We are lucky to have donors who care about and are committed to the school.”

Support the Academic, Professional and Administrative Activities of the School of Accountancy.

School of Accountancy Development Fund
School of Accountancy Faculty Development Fund
School of Accountancy Honors Scholarship Fund