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Thursday, February 27, 2014 - Accounting professor inspires as professor, mentor and friend
“Somewhere along the way, Professor Dillon became more than a professor to me. He became a friend. Soon after graduation, he became ‘Buck,’ which is how I now know him,” wrote Judy Hegelund, ACC ‘95, director at Deloitte and CPA, in support of her mentor’s nomination for the Michigan Association of CPAs’ (MACPA) 2013 Accounting Teaching Excellence Award.

A respected scholar, leader and former chair of OU’s Accounting Department, Professor Gadis “Buck” Dillon says his nickname stems from a letter written during World War II. Born in West Virginia in 1943, Dillon had an uncle stationed in the Pacific who wrote home, “Name him whatever you want, but call him ‘Buck,’” for reasons still a mystery to Dillon.

While his current students call him Doctor or Professor Dillon, many alumni, like Hegelund, consider “Buck” an influential mentor, an exemplary role model, and their friend.

“I always felt that learning does not end when a class session ends,” says Dillon, who came to OU in 1987 after teaching at the universities of Virginia, Georgia and Kentucky. “The accounting profession seeks more than just discipline-specific competence. Often, the deciding factor in receiving a desirable job is the professional demeanor of the candidate. Accordingly, I work to provide professional development and maturity
experiences for my students outside the classroom.”

Tools and knowledge Buck Dillon

Eddie Stern, ACC ‘11, MACC ’12, says without Dillon’s influence, he may not have chosen public accounting. “His passion for not only the profession, but for his students is obvious,” says Stern, experienced associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). “He wants everyone to succeed, but he doesn’t give the answers. He gives students the tools and knowledge, and leaves it to his students to use them to succeed. There is no better feeling than success on one’s own.”

Stern stays in contact with Dillon as does Korry Bates ACC ‘09, MACC ’10, who first met Dillon at the initial chapter meeting of OU’s National Association of Black Accountants (OU NABA) in fall 2007. “I had no idea of the magnitude to which Dr. Dillon would shape my professional and personal life,” says Bates, senior associate, risk practice, PWC.

Under Dillon’s tutelage, many students move from uncertain career aspirations to successful accounting professionals, notes Department of Accounting and Finance Chair Mohinder Parkash.

Changing with the times

For Dillon, who is married with two grown children and three grandchildren, much has changed in the 47 years he’s been teaching, especially when it comes to technology.

As a graduate student at West Virginia University in the late 1960s, Dillon remembers taking three months to run regression equations on data for an economics professor. Today, it takes ten seconds on a desktop computer.

“The computer eliminated many positions in information handling and transmission. Students entering public accounting need a much higher level of skill and understanding,” says Dillon, who earned his doctorate at the University of Michigan. “Still, there is a tremendous demand for accountants. The business community is increasingly complex.”

Aiming for excellence

Since arriving at OU, Dillon has helped students network and encourages them to get involved in extracurricular programs such as OU’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter, for which Dillon was the founding faculty advisor in 1991. From the start, Dillon challenged the members to excel by aiming to earn superior chapter ratings year after year, recalls Hegelund who served as the organization’s recording secretary.

“He has developed students into outstanding alumni and has maintained relationships with them, and therefore, the firms. This has contributed to the outstanding relationship that the Accounting Department has with alumni,” she says.

Dillon is simply the go-to person Bates adds. “If you need an answer, you ask Dr. Dillon. He is well respected and well connected,” says Bates. “One thing he’s said to me is, ‘Korry, when I look out at my class, they never age. Students are always the same age, so I think I’m still young.’”

Success through hard work

In many ways he is more energized than ever by the recognition he received in 2013 from the MACPA and also from the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce, which honored him with the Sunrise Pinnacle Award for Educator of the Year in 2013.

“The awards I receive I owe to my students and colleagues,” he says. “If students were not so receptive and hard working, then the recognition probably would not have happened. I am reaping the rewards.”

His students are also reaping the rewards. As Stern notes, he, like many of his fellow accounting students, already had jobs lined up upon graduation, and they credit Dillon for stressing the importance of communication and professionalism in securing and maintaining a career in accounting.

Dillon is satisfied knowing his students have the technical knowledge and work ethic to succeed in an accounting career.

By Alice Rhein