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Knott Earns Prestigious Elijah Watt Sells Award

Accounting Alum Scores in Top Seven Percent on CPA Exam
Knott Earns Prestigious Elijah Watt Sells Award
Presented the Elijah Watt Sells Awards from Jimmy Downes, director of the School of Accountancy, Lane Knott, '21 & '22, earned the award for his high scores on the Certified Public Accountant exam.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln alum Lane Knott, ’21 & ’22, received the prestigious Elijah Watt Sells Award from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Earning the honor for his high scores on the CPA test, he now applies the skills learned as an accounting student to his daily work at Labenz & Associates.

“The CPA exam is known for its difficulty, and it covers a wide range of accounting and business topics,” said Jimmy Downes, director of the School of Accountancy and associate professor of accountancy. “Earning the Elijah Watt Sells Award is a testament to Lane’s exceptional knowledge and understanding of the subjects. It also reflects his high level of competence in accounting and related areas.”

Knott received the award due to his cumulative average score above 95.5 across the four sections of the CPA exam and passing them all on his first attempt.

After moving from Petersburg, Nebraska, and graduating from Lincoln Southwest High School, Knott was selected for the Nebraska Business Honors Academy.
After moving from Petersburg, Nebraska, and graduating from Lincoln Southwest High School, Knott was selected for the Nebraska Business Honors Academy.

“The award is named after the country’s first CPA. Winning it can be a significant career milestone for individuals in the accounting profession and demonstrates to employers, colleagues and clients that recipients are highly knowledgeable and skilled in their field, which can open up opportunities for career advancement and increased earning potential,” Downes said.

He added that only 0.07 percent of the 67,000 candidates who took the CPA exam in 2022 earned the Elijah Watt Sells Award. Knott joins an elite group, which includes three School of Accountancy graduates: Caleb Krohn, who completed the exam in 2020, and Douglas Coons and Ashley McDowell, who both completed the exam in 2018.

The Elijah Watt Sells Award is impactful to my career because it helped make all the hours spent studying even more worth it. It was enough for me to just to pass the CPA exams, but the additional recognition from the university and my employer makes it even more special,” said Knott at the Celebration of Excellence event, where he was honored this fall.

Close to completing the requirements needed for his permit to practice as a CPA, Knott currently assists in preparing individual and business tax returns. He also helps with business valuations and review and compilation services.

“My degrees helped me get my position at Labenz & Associates by providing the baseline knowledge necessary for a career in the accounting field,” said Knott. “Labenz & Associates also works closely with the College of Business to hire interns during busy seasons. I interned for two tax seasons,” said Knott.

As part of the split internship program at the School of Accountancy, he completed accelerated courses during the spring semester. He then worked full time for the rest of the semester at the accounting firm while still earning college credit.

“The ability to participate in the split internship program was incredibly valuable to me as a student in choosing my career path,” he said. "I felt right at home at Labenz from the beginning. The atmosphere and culture at the firm was and is perfect for me."

Originally from Petersburg, Nebraska, Knott moved to Lincoln during middle school. He graduated from Lincoln Southwest and then enrolled at Nebraska.

“I chose UNL largely because I’ve been a Husker fan my whole life. The new College of Business was also a key reason, as was the Nebraska Business Honors Academy. My major was initially in business administration, but I switched because of the Introductory Accounting courses I took,” he said.

He shared how the Federal Tax Accounting undergraduate course taught by Kathryn Maresh, assistant professor of practice in accountancy, was his favorite.

“Professor Maresh did a great job of applying her experience from the accounting industry to classroom teaching. I enjoyed each class she taught,” he said.

Maresh also taught him during his Master of Professional Accountancy experience at Nebraska.

“Lane was attentive, inquisitive and excelled in each of the classes. I could always count on him to bail me out when I asked a question and everyone in the room was silent! In addition to his academic excellence, he is a sincere and genuine individual who works well with others," Maresh said.

Knott shared how many of his college memories center around the College of Business and Howard L. Hawks Hall. The Nebraska Business Honors Academy also was a big part of his undergraduate experience.

“The camaraderie built over the years while taking courses as a cohort in the Honors Academy helped build friendships that I cherish today. I was also involved in Beta Alpha Psi on campus, which gave me increased exposure to accounting firms in Lincoln and the surrounding area. It also helped me build social skills among my peers,” he said.

Knott also earned minors in finance and mathematics at the university and worked at UNL Campus Recreation in college. His experiences as a referee and staff assistant for intramural sports helped him learn valuable communication and teamwork skills. 

He also prepped for the CPA test by taking the Becker CPA preparation course and recommends it to students preparing to take the exam.

“The College of Business was instrumental in preparing me for the CPA exam, and the courses I took helped me develop the skills that I used when studying for the CPA exam. My accounting courses were especially helpful because they covered many of the topics on the exam,” said Knott. “It was also very valuable to be in a community of students, many of whom were striving for the same goals. I am proud to be a University of Nebraska alum and looking forward to continuing my career as a future CPA."

Published: February 20, 2024