Author: David Sargent, NASBA Communications and Electronic Media Specialist
The accounting profession lost two of its most inspiring members this past month. Bernadine Gines of New York and Dr. Larzette Hale of Atlanta both died in recent weeks, leaving a legacy as pioneers for African-American women across the country.
Gines, 88, died on January 23. She was the first African-American woman to become a CPA in New York. Dr. Hale, 94, died in early February and was the first African-American woman to become a CPA in the state of Georgia, as well as the first African-American female to earn a Ph.D. in accounting.
"The profession has lost two amazing women in a shockingly short window," stated Dr. Theresa Hammond, accounting professor at San Francisco State University and the author of A White-Collar Profession: African-American CPAs since 1921. "To my knowledge, they were the only two African-American women alive who earned their CPAs before 1960."
A native of Charlottesville, Virginia, Gines earned her undergrad at Virginia State University and an MBA from New York University. Despite graduating first in her class at Virginia State, she endured two years of rejections (including one from an African-American owned CPA firm in Manhattan that didn’t hire women) before being hired by a firm with a predominantly Jewish clientele in 1949.
The partners took Gines on client visits as they would with any employee. "If their clients had any problems with me being there they never showed it," she shared in September at a NYSSCPA ceremony honoring the 60th anniversary of her earning a CPA license.
Dr. Hale graduated from Langston University in a time when African-Americans were not allowed to enroll in Oklahoma’s two state universities. She went on to earn a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin and worked as a teacher at Clark College, where a mentor encouraged her to sit for the CPA Exam. In 1951, she earned her CPA license in Georgia. Four years later, she earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, a first for an African-American woman CPA.
Dr. Hale worked as a CPA, a college professor and a researcher for over 43 years. She was professor emeritus of accounting at Utah State University, where she led its school of accounting for more than 13 years.
Dr. Hale was also elected president of the American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants, and became the first African-American appointed to the Utah Board of Regents of Higher Education.
"Building a diverse pool of talent within the accounting profession is one of our key initiatives this year," said Walter Davenport, 2014-15 NASBA Chair. "Diversity makes us stronger and more equipped to serve the public’s interests. Pioneers like Bernadine Gines and Larzette Hale have paved the way for CPAs of all backgrounds and we honor their paramount contribution toward making our profession better—they embraced the future even though they couldn’t see it."
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