Leader Extraordinaire: Press Southworth
March 28, 2013
What were your student years like at Ohio State?
I grew up in Columbus and have always been a Buckeye. After high school, I was drafted by the U.S. Army and served four-and-a-half years including a tour in Vietnam. I went through Officer Candidate School and graduated as a lieutenant, eventually becoming a captain. After the Army, I decided to stay close to home and study at Ohio State on the GI Bill. At that point, I was married to Joan—a Columbus native and 1969 graduate from what is now the College of Education and Human Ecology—and had two young children.
A family friend and industrial psychologist tested my aptitude and discovered music was at the top and accounting came in second. Since I was already 24, I decided accounting was the better option. I chose early morning classes so I could work several hours in the afternoons. Joan was great about caring for the children and allowing me time to study during the evenings. After three years at Ohio State, I graduated summa cum laude in 1975, earning the first college degree in the Southworth family.
Who were your mentors at Ohio State?
Tom Burns taught the honors class in accounting. I couldn’t afford to devote the extra time needed to be in the honors class, but he involved me anyway. He also led the Beta Alpha Psi debate team and let me be a part of the team. I am invited to the honors reunions to this day. The allowances he made helped to build my confidence.
Robert Georges, an assistant dean of the business school and a retired military officer, helped by answering many of my questions and helping me create a schedule that fit everything into my day. After I completed my degree, I became involved with Pace Setters, an organization of professionals who support scholarship leadership at the Fisher College of Business. Through that, I helped to raise funds to establish the Robert E. Georges Senior Award, presented to a graduating senior at Fisher in recognition of both academic excellence and outstanding leadership. In 1975, I received a similar honor from Ohio State President Harold Enarson. Then, three years ago, I received the Pace Setter Executive Award, bringing it all full circle.
How did you shift from accounting to working with community arts organizations?
When I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, I made it a goal to be involved in the community. I did this by choosing at least one school or church organization, one health and welfare organization, and one arts organization. I was a past chair of the Opera Columbus board and newly retired when the opera ran into some financial difficulties. I became a four-month volunteer business manager, a role that turned into a full-time executive director position. Then I assumed the presidency of the Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium and became a community arts leader in that respect. In total, I have led nine not-for-profit organizations over the years, including the Ohio Society of CPAs, the local chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants, Prevent Blindness Ohio, and March of Dimes of Central Ohio.
In what ways are you still connected to Ohio State?
I am on the Fisher College of Business Alumni Advisory Board and Pace Setters, which merged about five years ago to be a committee of the advisory board. I am also involved in The Ohio State University Not-for-Profit Advisory Board and am a member of the Faculty Club. Because of my involvement in the arts, I have worked with various people and projects in the School of Music and at WOSU. I am also recognized by the President’s Club for my support of Ohio State and was particularly involved during my years at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Besides community involvement, what is life like for you now?
I consider myself a die-hard Buckeye and fan of Ohio State football, hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball. I share this love of sports with my grandson, Collin, who I call my buddy even though he’s now a high school sophomore at St. Charles Preparatory School in Columbus. I call him a renaissance man like me since he enjoys both arts and sports. I also enjoy spending time with my 13-year-old granddaughter, Madison.