The School of Accountancy received two major gifts totaling $2 million this year intended to help increase the ability of Nebraska to better compete with peers in the Big Ten conference. The anonymous endowments of $1 million each go to the creation of the Ellsworth L. Fulk Chair of Accountancy, and the Ellsworth L. Fulk Faculty and Ph.D. Student Development Fund.
Ellsworth L. Fulk ’19, for whom the funds are named, graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and in 1924 received Nebraska CPA Certificate #0000037, demonstrating his place of prominence as a pioneer in the field of accountancy. His magnitude as a professional accountant remains strong today, as Fulk’s private practice ultimately changed hands and became incorporated in BKD, LLP, one of the largest accounting firms in the country. Fulk died in 1945 but clients from his era remain on BKD’s books today.
The donors of the gift noted the historical significance of Fulk’s accounting work warranted the naming of the endowments in his honor. Dr. Aaron Crabtree, director of the School of Accountancy, believes the endowments could not be named for anyone more deserving of the recognition.
“To be a forerunner to BKD is really amazing,” said Crabtree. “These gifts in Fulk’s name go a long way to bolstering our position in the Big Ten. To have a donor willing to listen to our specific needs and help us in those areas is pretty special. It’s not often you meet someone with the passion and ability to invest in the school at this level.”
The new dollars provide support and show continued belief for what is happening at the school. It gives room to grow academically to match the growth of the school as it moved into the new Howard L. Hawks Hall building in 2017.
“One of the issues we have is recruiting and retaining high-level faculty who come with a lot of experience. This endowed chair position allows us to attract better, more experienced tenured candidates. There’s an academic distinction that goes with being awarded a chair position, and then there’s the monetary part that hopefully separates our offer from others they might have,” said Crabtree.
He sees the development fund as a major step forward. In particular, opportunities for Ph.D. students will be magnified with the new funding.
“This new funding allows us to send students to research conferences. A lot of the conferences have a day dedicated to doctoral students where they are presenting papers. A doctoral student may be focusing on audit research and this would give them the ability to meet other doctoral students interested in the same area. Students also develop networks with other faculty where they can pitch ideas and make connections for when they’re on the job market. It puts their faces with the name employers will see on their application,” he said.
Additionally, the fund allows the school to purchase specialized data sets to help recruit and ultimately make better job placements for doctoral students. It also would make funds available to pay participants in behavioral research studies.
Fulk, originally from Atlanta, Nebraska, earned membership into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society during his time at Nebraska. His private practice Walker & Fulk ultimately became Phillip G. Johnson & Co., which in turn became BKD, LLP.